Rafael Benitez in the frame for Nottingham Forest job as defeat pushes Steve Cooper to the brink

Rafa Benitez - Jon Super/AP
Rafa Benitez - Jon Super/AP

Steve Cooper’s position as Nottingham Forest's head coach has been plunged into doubt, with former Liverpool and Newcastle manager Rafael Benítez already emerging as a potential replacement.

Cooper is fighting for his future after a fifth successive Premier League defeat in Monday night’s Midlands derby at Leicester, which leaves Forest bottom of the table.

Benítez is expected to come into the frame if Forest dismiss Cooper, with the Spaniard keen to make a return to English football after a difficult spell with Everton ended in January.

He has vast experience of the top division after spells with Liverpool, Newcastle and Everton and will be regarded as a high-profile appointment if, as expected, Forest make a change in the technical area.

Cooper guided the East Midlands club to the top-flight after a 23-year absence in May but his job is now under serious scrutiny after this heavy defeat.

When asked if his future was now in doubt, Cooper said: "I completely understand the situation and the question and respect it 100 per cent

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper after the Premier League match at King Power Stadium - Tim Goode/PA Wire
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper after the Premier League match at King Power Stadium - Tim Goode/PA Wire

“But my concern is we have lost another game for this club, not my own situation because I care more about the club more than my personal circumstances.

“We are on a run of results that are not good, I am not going to shy away from that.

“I’m not thinking about my personal situation apart from how I can be at my best every day, but the tougher it gets the more I work and the more it means to me.”

After Forest were promoted via the Championship play-offs, 23 new signings were recruited in the summer transfer window with over £150 million spent.

It has proved a difficult start on their return, however, with Cooper struggling to work out his best team after so many additions.

Cooper’s position was in jeopardy before the international break following the defeats against newly promoted teams in Bournemouth and Fulham, and this latest loss could spell the end of his tenure.

Forest do not return to action until Monday with a home game against Aston Villa. Benítez is already known to Lee Charnley, the former Newcastle managing director who now holds a senior role at Forest.

“We are not the team we want to be,” said Cooper. “We are having phases where we’re letting the result run away from us, and we’ve done it again tonight.

“I refuse to be really critical of the players as a group, I don’t want to sound soft or fluffy but it’s tough for them to play with new players.

Premier League bottom six

“Relationships and stuff are built over time and it’s not what we have. It’s a unique situation and we are trying to face up to it and get through.

"This is a fresh challenge for us. Some of the guys have only met each other these last couple of weeks.”

Leicester were inspired by playmaker James Maddison as the heat on manager Brendan Rodgers was eased by a first league win of the season.

Maddison scored twice in the first-half, with a fine individual effort from Harvey Barnes and an audacious backheeled goal by substitute Patson Daka completing the rout.

Rodgers said Maddison has been “outstanding” for the last 18 months and the midfielder expressed his frustration over his exclusion from Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

“It’s obviously a weird position because we’ve been bottom of the league but I’ve felt as confident as any time in my career,” he said.

“That is an ambition of mine [to play at the World Cup]. I watch international football and an opportunity at that level is something that I’d relish and believe I could have an impact on.

“I think there could be a space for me in the squad so I’ll keep working hard. Hopefully it will come my way one day."