Brendan Rodgers suggested Leicester could seek to have Tuesday’s trip to Everton postponed after being reduced to just eight senior outfield players for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Watford.
The Foxes have been hit by a raft of injuries, positive coronavirus tests and Africa Cup of Nations call-ups in recent weeks.
They managed to put the problems aside to begin their defence of the cup with a convincing 4-1 win over former manager Claudio Ranieri’s Hornets in their third-round clash at the King Power Stadium.
Yet with 17 players unavailable for various reasons, Leicester boss Rodgers has concerns as he looks ahead to the game at Goodison Park, which has already been rearranged once after being postponed last month.
Rodgers said in an interview: “We’ve been stretched in terms of numbers and, for the integrity of the competition, we’ll assess where we’re at.”
Invited in his post-match press conference to expand upon that remark, Rodgers said: “You’ve seen for yourself the squad and the team that we have. We need to go in and assess it and see where we’re at in terms of players. We’ll take it from there.”
Asked if a request for postponement had yet been made, he added: “We’ve literally just finished, so no.”
The former Liverpool and Celtic boss Rodgers did say, however, that the situation was the worst of its kind he has experienced in his managerial career.
“I have never had this before,” the Northern Irishman said. “It is a unique situation.
“Covid, when that kicked in, was tough for us. Players were out and we couldn’t rest the ones who were playing, so they were overloaded. It’s great some of them played but there was a cost for that.
“But it is a difficult situation for a lot of teams and just focusing on today was a great joy. We have begun our dream of getting back to Wembley again in a good way.”
Rodgers’ patched-up side, which featured nine changes, included 20-year-old Vontae Daley-Campbell and debutant Lewis Brunt, 21. There were also six inexperienced players on the bench, along with rested goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Yet against a Hornets side showing seven changes of their own as they focus on their relegation battle, they were still too strong.
A Youri Tielemans penalty and James Maddison strike got them off to a fine start before Harvey Barnes and Marc Albrighton secured victory after a Joao Pedro reply.
Rodgers said: “The performance and result, I’m thrilled by. The Academy players did exceptionally well and it was a really good test against a Premier League team.
“It was a tough game for us, so to play as well as we did, I’m delighted.”
Rodgers was particularly impressed by Hamza Choudhury in an unfamiliar central defensive role, comparing him to one of his old Liverpool charges, Javier Mascherano.
Rodgers said: “Hamza has played in a back three or back two in training, and played it very well, so I rang him up and said, ‘You’re going to be new Mascherano, for Leicester’.
“I thought he was sensational in the game.”
Ranieri was not too disheartened by defeat, making clear he sees the Premier League – and some crucial basement battles in the coming weeks – as more important.
The Italian said: “The performance was good but my priority was to save some players because, for us, the rest of the season is very important.
“During the match we tried to so something good. We scored a goal to make it 2-1 and we had two or three chances. Maybe we had to shoot more but, at the end, Leicester did shoot, and score.
“But it was good because we had no injured players and that is very important.”