Brendan Rodgers says it will be a “big ask” for Leicester City to finish in a Champions League spot – despite continuing their strong start to the season with a thumping win over Newcastle.
Jamie Vardy scored twice as Leicester demonstrated potential to secure a top-four finish by recording their biggest Premier League win to move back up to third in the table.
The 2015-16 champions are three points clear of both Chelsea and Tottenham, who finished third and fourth respectively last season.
Yet Rodgers played down his side’s chances of finishing in the top four, and said: “It’s very early in the season.
“We know it’s a big ask because of all the other clubs that have been regulars there. We are only really focusing on how we play, looking at our performance levels.”
Newcastle are anchored in the relegation zone after Leicester took full advantage of Isaac Hayden’s straight red card for a terrible tackle on fellow midfielder Dennis Praet by running riot.
Leicester were already leading through Ricardo Pereira’s outstanding low finish before the hosts made the extra man advantage count with three goals in 10 second-half minutes.
Vardy beat Martin Dubravka at his near post to double the lead and, after Paul Dummett had deflected Praet’s cross into his own net to make it 3-0, headed the fourth.
On a shocking day for Newcastle, Wilfred Ndidi added a late fifth goal with a shot on the turn.
Rodgers’ side, who started the weekend third but dropped to fifth following Saturday’s games, are two points off second-placed Manchester City and seven behind leaders Liverpool, who they visit next Saturday.
Rodgers will have a spring in his step when he makes his first return to Anfield since being sacked by Liverpool in 2015.
This was Leicester’s 10th – and almost certainly easiest – top-flight win in 18 games since they announced his appointment in February.
“I’ll give my life to make the supporters proud of this club,” said Rodgers on the day he was unveiled as Leicester’s fourth permanent boss in 23 months.
Rejuvenated and full of energy, they have been transformed by the former Celtic manager who took over a team drained of confidence and starved of wins seven months ago.
Only Manchester City and Liverpool have accumulated more Premier League points than Leicester since Rodgers’ appointment, and Newcastle can count themselves fortunate not to have been on the end of an even heavier drubbing.
Leicester produced a clinical performance and scored from all five of their shots on target.
Portugal defender Pereira’s second goal in as many top-flight games set the tone for an utterly dominant performance – the former Porto player starting the move inside his own half before finishing after a neat one-two with former Newcastle player Ayoze Perez.
After Hayden’s red card, Leicester swarmed their opponents yet Dubravka should have kept out Vardy’s first goal.
Dummett’s own goal added to Newcastle’s woes yet Leicester were not done as Vardy was left unmarked to make it 4-0 with a close-range header before Ndidi piled on the embarrassment for the visitors.
Newcastle started the weekend in 17th spot but end it rooted in the bottom three after a spineless performance devoid of fight and character.
Steve Bruce talked about “a huge challenge” when he was appointed head coach in the summer yet, just seven games in, the problems are piling up.
Bruce already knew before this game his side had serious issues in front of goal after scoring just four times in six matches – as many as they managed in the last match under Rafael Benitez in May.
Not only did they fail to find the net against Leicester, they did not muster a single shot on target.
With the game goalless, Hayden’s shot from distance almost found Yoshinori Muto in a scoring position, while Christian Atsu – one goal since December 2017 – lifted another attempt over the bar.
Hayden did his side no favours with his out-of-control challenge, while Dubravka’s failure to stop Vardy from scoring Leicester’s second left the visitors demoralised with more than half an hour remaining.
While Perez – Newcastle’s leading scorer in the Premier League last season – is thriving at Leicester, the goals have dried up for the Magpies.
They invested a club record £40m in the summer to sign Brazilian striker Joelinton yet he has found the net once, as many times as Netherlands defender Jetro Willems who joined on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt.
It does not get any easier for Bruce or Newcastle. After next Sunday’s home game with Manchester United, their first game after the international break is at Chelsea on 19 October.