Soccer-Back to earth with a bump, Leicester's Rodgers still hopeful of top four

Premier League - Chelsea v Leicester City
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers came back to earth with a bump as a 2-1 defeat by Chelsea on Tuesday left his side's Premier League top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

Trailing to a goal by Antonio Rudiger and a Jorginho penalty, Leicester battled until the end with Kelechi Iheanacho pulling a goal back to set up a nervy climax.

But Leicester were unable to salvage a point that would have kept them in control of their fate.

With one game left they slipped below Chelsea into fourth place and if Liverpool beat Burnley away on Wednesday, Leicester will fall out of the top four on goal difference.

Just as they did last season, Leicester could now miss out on Champions League qualification at the death.

Rodgers, who was lofted high into the air on Saturday after Leicester beat Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley to win the FA Cup for the first time, tried to remain positive afterwards.

"Liverpool have a couple of games. Chelsea have a tough game away at Aston Villa," he said. "I've always said we just need to concentrate on ourselves.

"We're still in that top four and we've got one more game to go. If we win it and it's still not enough for us we have to accept that. It's still been a great season."

Chelsea will be guaranteed a top-four finish if they win at Villa while Leicester, who face Tottenham Hotspur at home on Sunday, and Liverpool, who host Crystal Palace could end on 69 points. Liverpool have one-goal better goal difference.

"It would be really disappointing (to miss the top four)," Rodgers said. "But our story and your story is different. If we just fall short after 38 games as the team with the eighth biggest budget, it shows we fought really hard."

Leicester looked flat at Stamford Bridge until Iheanacho came off the bench to find the net and become the first player in Premier League history to score on every day of the week in a single season in the competition.

That was little consolation for Iheanacho who has scored 14 goals in his last 14 games in all competitions.

"It is so painful, we needed to win this game. The first half was not great and the second half we were much better. It was tough for us to come back," he said.

"We gave everything tonight, it was so tough and hard for us and the last game we need to win and try to book our place in the Champions League."

Rodgers refused to blame the emotions of Saturday's Cup triumph for his side's below-par display but said the quick turnaround had been tough.

"There was no loss of focus or distraction, it was just a tight turnaround," he said. "We have to get the points on Sunday then see where we are."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)