Jose Mourinho has hailed Leicester’s recent trophy haul as “amazing” and urged Roma fans to help knock the Foxes out of the Europa Conference League semi-finals by saying: “Don’t come to watch the game, come to play.”
Mourinho’s Roma are locked in a 1-1 draw with Rodgers’ Foxes after the first leg at the King Power Stadium, meaning Thursday night’s second leg at the Stadio Olimpico is a winner-takes-all battle.
Leicester are hoping to add the Europa Conference League to the FA Cup and Community Shield trophies picked up in 2021, along with the 2016 Premier League title, and Mourinho was full of compliments for the Foxes and their manager.
“What Leicester is doing is fantastic,” said Mourinho in his press conference. “Of course, what they did by winning the Premier League [in 2016] is amazing but after that the way the club grows at every level, arriving to now with one of the best training centres in Europe, the club is amazing.
“Brendan doesn’t surprise me. With Liverpool, people forget what he did with much much less resources than what Liverpool has now. He did amazingly. And then the Scottish history [in his time at Celtic], people forget because people don’t focus on the Scottish titles.
“Then to win the FA Cup with Leicester, even the Community Shield, the stability in the club and the way they played, it’s a perfect feat with Leciester and Brendan. Very very good. But I hope tomorrow is for us and not for them.”
Mourinho then issued a rallying cry to the Roma fans, with the Giallorossi supporters set to sell out their 70,000 stadium.
“Obviously we want to play for us but I would like to play the game with them [the fans],” the Portuguese coach added. “You can go to the ground as fans and play the game.
“There are 70,000 fans who want to play. This is what I ask: don’t come to the game to watch, come to play.”
Rodgers: Time for Leicester to write another chapter
In the Leicester camp, manager Brendan Rodgers has urged his players to add another trophy to their collection and keep their fairytale story going.
“This is our biggest game of the season,” Rodgers said. “This is another step forward for us in the maturation of the team. We will gain from the experience, we have shown we can complete the task. You have to embrace that.
“That’s what we have been trying to create here, a winning mentality, and for some players they have to adapt to that. It takes time and these are experiences you want the players to learn from.
“It’s something they are hungry for and we are all hungry to succeed. This is another chapter of the story. Our main objective is to keep the story of this club going, like we did in the FA Cup.
“We wanted to be the winners for the first time and we wanted that to be an objective in this competition as well. This is another chapter to write in our own history.”
Meanwhile, Foxes captain Kasper Schmeichel – who has won the Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield with the Foxes – wants to add to his collection as he leads them into the Stadio Olimpico.
“It’s a European trophy, every one is important, every competition you can win is important,” he said. “I don’t play football to finish fourth, fifth or sixth. You do it for the occasions regardless of competitions.
“It’s about winning trophies. That’s what fans and players look back on, those moments when you got to lift trophies.
“The infrastructure of the club is in place to be successful. If we were to reach the final, that’s sustained success over a period of time in terms of finals reached and trophies won.”
To the comments made by Schmeichel about winning a trophy being better than fourth place, Mourinho responded: “To be honest, to be champion with Leicester means more than three titles with Chelsea or with Liverpool or with Manchester United. He should be happy that he won that very special title.
“Jokes apart, of course he wants to win. Especially because it’s the only way that can help Leicester reach European competition next season.”
Leicester team news
James Maddison and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall are fit for Leicester’s Europa Conference League semi-final second leg at Roma.
The pair missed Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Tottenham but will travel to Italy with the squad after shaking off hip and calf injuries respectively.
Jamie Vardy is available but Ryan Bertrand and Wilfred Ndidi (both knee) remain out while Nampalys Mendy is ineligible for the game, which is finely poised after last week’s 1-1 first-leg draw.
Leicester provisional squad:
Schmeichel, Ward, Amartey, Justin, Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Fofana, Vestergaard, Thomas, Barnes, Tielemans, Maddison, Albrighton, Choudhury, Dewsbury-Hall, Soumare, Iheanacho, Perez, Daka, Lookman, Vardy.