Balance key to outfoxing Atletico – Shakespeare
Leicester City must strike the right emotional and tactical balance if they are to make more history against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, manager Craig Shakespeare said yesterday.
Exactly eight years on from a 2-0 win at Southend United that saw Leicester promoted from the third tier, England’s miracle club are one victory away from a place in the Champions League semi-finals.
They trail 1-0 from last week’s quarter-final first leg and while Shakespeare says they cannot afford to think about anything but the task in hand, he is mindful of their extraordinary journey.
“Tomorrow night the focus just has to be on the game,” he told reporters at his pre-match press conference.
“You can look ahead and look back, but you have to focus on the here and now. Where the club has come from is remarkable.
“If you had said last year you’d win the Premier League and this year be in the Champions League quarter-finals and with a chance to be in the semi-finals, everyone would have been pinching themselves.”
The King Power Stadium is likely to be rocking, but Shakespeare said it will be important for his players to keep their cool.
“As players you have to get the right balance, but I think I’ve got that within the squad,” said the Leicester manager, whose side lost to a disputed Antoine Griezmann penalty in the first leg.
“You have to have that fire in your belly, but you also have to have cool, smart heads at times.”
He added: “We’ve got to get a goal back. But by the same token, we need to be mindful of players like Griezmann.
“We need to deny them space because they’re a very, very good counter-attacking team.”
Leicester captain Wes Morgan will undergo a late fitness test on the morning of the game.
The centre-back has missed Leicester’s last six matches due to a nerve problem in his back, but has taken part in the squad’s last three training sessions.
– Gameiro returns –
Shakespeare is already without his other first-choice centre-back, Robert Huth, due to suspension.
Yohan Benalouane, who has been deputising for Morgan, came off due to cramp during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace, but Shakespeare said he had trained without any problems on Monday.
Leicester overcame a one-goal deficit to defeat Sevilla in the previous round, although on that occasion they went into the home leg with an away goal under their belts.
Victorious in Shakespeare’s first six games after succeeding the sacked Claudio Ranieri, Leicester are currently without a win in three matches.
But Atletico coach Diego Simeone believes they have rediscovered some of the momentum that swept them to last season’s 5,000-1 title triumph.
“I think Leicester are in decent form,” he said.
“In the last six or seven games, they’ve been very close to their best form from last season’s title win.
“Our characteristics as teams are very, very similar. We both work hard. I think it’ll be a very, very tight game.
“The first leg was a very narrow result and I think tomorrow night will be no different. It will be decided on the smallest details.”
Atletico are bidding to reach the last four for the third time in four seasons following their losses to city rivals Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 finals.
The three-time beaten finalists have received a lift prior to Tuesday’s game with the return to fitness of Kevin Gameiro, who trained with the rest of the squad on Monday.
The France striker has missed Atletico’s last five matches with a groin problem and could come in for Fernando Torres if Simeone decides he is fit enough to start.
Koke, Saul Niguez, Gabi and star man Griezmann are all due to return to the starting XI after being completely rested for Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Osasuna, which left them third in La Liga.
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