LEICESTER – Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers said his side must “embrace the challenge” of what looks a daunting climax to their season after a 4-2 home drubbing by Newcastle United in the Premier League on Friday.
His side's eighth home league defeat put a dent in their hopes of a top-four finish, leaving them in third spot in the standings with 63 points, two above Chelsea and five above fifth-placed West Ham United, both of whom have a game in hand.
Leicester's last three league games are against Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. They also have an FA Cup final to prepare for against Chelsea.
“We have made it a lot harder for ourselves but it is still in our hands,” said Rodgers, whose side let slip a top-four place at the death last season. “We have to fight and we are a group that is together.
“We have already beaten our total from last season. We have to embrace the challenge. We have three exciting games left plus a cup final and we are excited for the challenge.”
Leicester had 25 goal attempts against Newcastle but their defence was all at sea as Joe Willock and Paul Dummett gave Newcastle a 2-0 halftime lead before Callum Wilson's second-half double made it 4-0 to the visitors.
Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho scored late goals for Leicester but it was too little too late.
Leicester's night had got off to a bad start when defender Jonny Evans was injured in the warmup.
“Jonny Evans is the brain of our backline and when he came out of the team that was a big blow for us. However, we should still defend better,” Rodgers said.
“I will give credit to the players because they kept fighting and kept running to the end. Tonight it was just too many mistakes.”
While Leicester face an anxious climax to the season, Newcastle boss Steve Bruce's players can breathe easier after moving 12 points clear of third-bottom Fulham and now look 99% certain of staying in the top flight.
“Absolutely pleasing, especially the first half. Some of the counter attacking was excellent, delighted with the win,” Bruce said. “We made it a bit hairy towards the end.
“We are not safe, for the Premier League you can't take it for granted. We are almost there. Until it is done, we have to get ready for the next challenge.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)