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Balance key to outfoxing Atletico – Shakespeare

Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Leicester City must strike the right balance both emotionally and tactically if they are to conquer battle-hardened Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final, manager Craig Shakespeare said on Monday.

Leicester approach Tuesday’s return leg trailing 1-0 after Antoine Griezmann’s disputed penalty in Madrid last week gave Atletico a slender advantage.

The King Power Stadium is likely to be rocking as Leicester go in search of another fairytale, 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,” he told reporters during his pre-match press conference.

“I don’t have a real problem with that. You have to have that fire in your belly, but you also have to have cool, smart heads at times.

“We’ve proved over the last 18 months that we’re more than capable of that.”

Shakespeare revealed that 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.

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.

They struggled to create chances at the Vicente Calderon last week and fell to a penalty awarded for a foul on Griezmann by Marc Albrighton that replays showed occurred just outside the box.

– Gameiro lift –

While Shakespeare knows Leicester must show a sharper cutting edge than in the first leg, he remains mindful of the threat Atletico pose on the counter-attack.

“We need to make sure we create more offensively,” said Shakespeare, who succeeded Claudio Ranieri as manager after Leicester’s first-leg loss to Sevilla in the last 16.

“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.

“We’re at home, we need to be more forceful than we were, but respectful of the opposition as well.”

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 first-leg scoreline did not reflect their dominance, but the three-time beaten finalists have received a lift prior to Tuesday’s game with the return to fitness of Kevin Gameiro.

The France striker has missed Atletico’s last five matches with a groin problem and could come in for Fernando Torres if coach Diego 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.

The game highlighted a recurring problem with penalties that may come back to haunt Atletico against Leicester, particularly if the tie goes to spot-kicks.

Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Partey were both thwarted from 12 yards by Osasuna goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, meaning Atletico have missed their last six penalties in La Liga.

While Griezmann may have netted from the spot in the first leg, he had squandered his four previous penalties taken during play.

“It is hard to explain,” Simeone said. “It is down to the individual every time, but it is certainly not just bad luck.”

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