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.
“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.”