London (AFP) – Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare has no plans to detail a defender solely to mark striker Jermain Defoe when the champions face strugglers Sunderland.
Basement club Sunderland continue their increasingly forlorn struggle against Premier League relegation at Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Tuesday, with the Black Cats currently eight points adrift of safety.
England forward Defoe had scored 14 league goals this season for northeast side Sunderland, including the winner in the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light back in December.
But Shakespeare said Monday that the 34-year-old Defoe was far from Sunderland’s only threat.
“We have spoken about Jermain Defoe in our preparation and we know what kind of threat he can be,” said Shakespeare on Monday. “His record speaks for itself. But we won’t man-mark him.
“I was pleased to see him back in the England squad and he took his goal (against Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier) really well. Any team that has Jermain Defoe in it will be dangerous and we must keep him quiet.
“But he is not the only dangerous player Sunderland have — they showed what they can do by winning 4-0 at Crystal Palace a few weeks ago.
“We’ve been in the same situation as Sunderland, down there fighting for your lives when the games are starting to run out. It will be a close game again, I think, and we respect Sunderland but we are in a good place at the moment.”
Leicester were flirting with relegation themselves when the club’s Thai owners took the controversial decision to sack title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri and promote Shakespeare from within the coaching staff.
The move has so far proved a spectacular success with Shakespeare, who won his only game as caretaker manager at West Bromwich Albion, now boasting a 100 percent record from six games as a boss.
Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Stoke saw Shakespeare become the first British manager to win his first four games in the Premier League, with Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink and Pep Guardiola the only other club bosses to achieve the feat.
Hiddink, a former Chelsea and Netherlands manager, said at the weekend he had had turned down the chance to succeed Ranieri at Midlands side Leicester and that Shakespeare had been partly down to his advice.
“It’s lovely to hear from someone of that ilk, it’s an honour really,” said Shakespeare. “I’m not sure how many people were spoken to — that’s down to the owners — but thankfully they’ve given me the chance.