Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare declared on Tuesday night that players need to feel a hunger to play more Champions League football, having fallen short in their quarter final against a superior Atletico Madrid.
Shakespeare, who said that he is willing to speak about his future beyond the end of the season whenever Leicester’s owners want, revealed that he had pre-planned the shift to a three-man defence which worked so well for his side as they came back strongly in the second half against the Spaniards.
“We’d talked about different scenarios,” said Shakespeare, who made the change at half-time. “I didn’t expect to do it that early. We needed to be more of a threat in their half especially in front of goal. Playing Jamie [Vardy] and Riyad [Mahrez] off [substitute] Leo Ulloa and with wing backs. The players’ attitude to make that work was first class. We just couldn’t quite get the breaks that were needed.
Leicester 1 Atletico 1 player ratings
Leicester 1 Atletico 1 player ratings
1/22 Kasper Schmeichel - 6 out of 10
Pipped at his far post for Saul’s sublime header. Confident as always between the sticks and assertive under the high ball. Made a number of key saves.
2/22 Danny Simpson - 6
Hard-working but simply lacked the quality and composure for the big occasion.
3/22 Wes Morgan - 7
A captain’s performance. Considering Morgan was returning from a seven-game absence, the defender acquitted himself excellently. Physical as ever and put in some crucial challenges and interceptions.
4/22 Yohan Benalouane - 6
Nervy at times but still impressed with an occasional big challenge. Having been absent from Leicester’s backline all season long, he’s more than paid his dues these last couple of weeks.
5/22 Christan Fuchs - 6
Unafraid to push on and linked up well with Albrighton ahead of him. Struggled at times in his battle with Saul.
6/22 Riyad Mahrez - 6
Clever in his decision-making and passes. Grew into the game, with his mazy runs and silky feet proving a challenge for the experience Atletico backline. Still unable to recreate the magic of last season though.
7/22 Wilfred Ndidi - 7
A future star in the making. The 20-year-old showed all the qualities of a great midfielder tonight. Excellent in his break-up play, assured in his passing and demonstrated a knack to show up in the right places at the right time. Leicester will do well to hold onto him for next season.
8/22 Danny Drinkwater - 6
Tried to force too many balls over the top. Looked a bit overwhelmed at times but persisted nonetheless.
9/22 Marc Albrighton - 6
Tenacious and lively down the left flank. Linked up well with Fuchs and his inside men. Found space for a testing delivery here and there. Lost sight of Saul, though, for Atletico’s goal.
10/22 Shinji Okazaki - 7
A tireless performance from the Japanese. Complimented Vardy well, sitting just off the shoulder from the forward. Made the right movements and confident in dropping back in search of the ball.
11/22 Jamie Vardy - 7
Gave as good as he got all game long. Chased every single ball and relentless in his press. Took his goal very well to give Leicester hope.
12/22 Jan Oblak - 6
Did the basics well tonight and stepped up to the mark as he was increasingly called upon as the game wore on.
13/22 Juanfran - 7
Started well but was forced off through injury. Unbalanced Atletico after that.
14/22 Stefan Savić - 7
Won the majority of his challenges, both on the deck and in the air. Looked confident with the ball at feet too. A completely different defender from the one who played for Manchester City.
15/22 Diego Godín - 7
His experience shone through. Led the backline with maturity and composure. Enjoyed his challenges with Vardy all game long.
16/22 Filipe Luis - 7
It was his cross for the first goal. Up and down all game long. Very energetic.
17/22 Saúl Ñíguez - 7
Took his header excellently to put Atletico ahead. Proved to be a real nuisance and seemed to get the better of Fuchs whenever he pushed forward.
18/22 Gabi - 7
Got a lot of help from Gimenez but such a professional in that central role. So experienced. Never looked out of his comfort zone.
19/22 José Giménez - 7
Threatened with a number of direct runs that pushed the Leicester backline to the edge. Linked up well with Gabi.
20/22 Koke - 6
Kept the Atletico Madrid midfield ticking over all game long and got stuck in defensively to keep Leicester from finding a second.
21/22 Yannick Carrasco - 6
Not so dangerous in his running and his delivery was off at points. Unusual for him to feature up front. Nothing stand-out from his performance tonight.
22/22 Antoine Griezmann - 7
Provided a constant source of threat for the visitors but also more than happy to track back and help out his side defensively. A rounded performance that reaffirms why he’s one of Europe’s most-sought after players.
“They should want more of this because all players want to play at the highest level. The Champions League is the highest level but we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League now.”
Atletico manager Diego Simeone, who refused to be drawn on whether he might quit the Vicente Calderon at the top if his side finally win the Champions League this season, said that Shakespeare’s tactical shift had made a huge difference to the game.
“[They were] fantastic changes,” Simeone said. “They changed the second half. They managed to get lots of people down the sides and the wings in order to get the ball in high; lots of crosses into Ulloa. The defence I eventually came up with allowed us to combat that. I think we managed that. We performed in the way that this match needed us to perform. We always came up with a solution. I think we did respond and performed in the way we needed to.”
Ask if it might be “over with Madrid” if his side win the competition, Simeone said: “The only thing on my mind is the team – [and] Spanish [football.]”
Shakespeare – who said he believed that defender Wes Morgan had only been suffering cramp when forced to leave the field before the end – was reluctant to say he thought Leicester could make it back into this tournament soon.
“I’m not looking too far ahead,” he said. “You have to be careful you don’t get too carried away in football. The here and now are the important bits. Arsenal a week on Wednesday is the next important game.”
Asked if he wanted to lead the club back to the Champions League, he said: “It’s not in my hands. We’ll sit down at the end of the season. I’m more than happy to sit down before then if it arises. I’ve enjoyed [being manager]. You are pitting your wits against one of the best manager in the world (Simeone). At the end of the season I’ll be able to reflect on my own performance as well as the club’s.”Reuse content