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Leicester Prague-Bound As European Campaign Enters Knockout Phase

Leicester City flew out to Prague on Wednesday to resume the Club’s UEFA Europa League adventure following a meritorious group stage campaign for the Foxes before Christmas.
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The only side of 48 teams to have started the 2020/21 tournament and never contested a Europa League fixture before this season, the Foxes are now just one of five clubs – including Royal Antwerp, Granada, 1899 Hoffenheim and Wolfsberger – to be making their UEL knockout debuts.

While the likes of Ajax, Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk have now joined the competition from the UEFA Champions League, City were handed a Round of 32 tie against Czech Republic champions Slavia Prague, who finished as runners-up in Group C.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy is part of the travelling squad for Thursday's match at Sinobo Stadium.

Unbeaten in the Czech First League and 10 points clear of city rivals Sparta Prague, Jindřich Trpišovský's Červenobílí side will be the first opponents from Czech Republic that Leicester have ever faced.

For Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers, though, it won’t be the Northern Irishman’s first visit to Sinobo Stadium – the country's largest football venue – after his Celtic side contested a goalless pre-season draw with Slavia in the summer of 2017.

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Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers was first up on media duties on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday morning began with media commitments at LCFC Training Ground in Seagrave as Rodgers and Academy graduate Harvey Barnes addressed the international press via virtual means inside the King Power Centre.

Speaking ahead of his 71st match as a manager in UEFA competitions, Rodgers outlined the respect he holds for Trpišovský's outfit and explained the difficulty of Leicester’s task in the stunning city of Prague, situated on the Vltava river.

[Prague are] used to winning games and have pace in their team. It’s going to be a difficult game over the two legs, but we’re looking forward to it.

Brendan Rodgers

“We want to do well in this competition,” the 48-year-old said. “We won our group and now we have a tough game against Slavia Prague. We’re excited by the challenge.

“They are set up well. They have confidence from being the top team in their country. They’re used to winning games and have pace in their team. It’s going to be a difficult game over the two legs, but we’re looking forward to it.”

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Harvey Barnes
Harvey Barnes

England international Harvey Barnes discussed the nature of the challenge which European ties present for the Foxes.

For Barnes, on the other hand, Thursday’s game could – if selected – be his eighth outing in Europe, a journey which began with a senior debut for the Club in the Champions League against Portuguese giants FC Porto at Estádio do Dragão in December 2016.

“We need to know how to deal with a game over two legs,” the Countesthorpe-local said. “It's something that a lot of us aren't used to. I don't think I've played in a fixture where it's over two legs, so it'll definitely be a new experience.

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

The Foxes trained at LCFC Training Ground on Wednesday morning before flying to Czech Republic.

“We'll face different challenges over the two games. We feel like it's a massive competition and we know how important it is. The Club hasn't won it before, so it's something we've definitely got in our targets.

“The end goal is to get as far as we can. [The Europa League] has been a new challenge for a lot of us, but we're really enjoying it.”

Slavia, meanwhile, have won just one of 11 continental fixtures against English opposition – beating Leeds United in 2000 – but Jan Bořil and Lukáš Masopust were nonetheless in the Czech Republic side which defeated England in 2020 UEFA European Championships qualifying in October 2019.

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Slavia Prague
Slavia Prague

Slavia Prague finished as runners-up in Group C of the UEFA Europa League and are currently top of the Czech First League.

Later on Wednesday, the six-time Czech First League champions will stage press conferences of their own, while Leicester will spend the only night of their stay in Prague at the Club’s hotel in the city, finalising their tactical plan to face Trpišovský's in-form side.

There will also be time for Luke Thomas and Christian Fuchs to speak directly to members of the Blue Army over Zoom, alongside City legends Matt Elliott and Gerry Taggart back home, before matchday arrives in the Czech Republic the following morning.

Don’t forget, live coverage is available for free on LCFC Radio from 4:25pm GMT on Thursday.

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