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Shakespeare planning ahead after Leicester’s wild ride

Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Leicester return home to the King Power Stadium to face Watford on Saturday with their Premier League future effectively secure and thoughts already turning to a crucial close-season.

The Premier League champions this week had to hand back the trophy they won a year ago and Foxes manager Craig Shakespeare is urging his players to finally put their fairytale title success behind them. 

But his own future and that of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel are two of several burning issues that need to be addressed before they can begin to fully plan for the next phase of the club’s development.

Shakespeare’s own position remains uncertain after he was handed a contract as manager until the end of the season, while Schmeichel appears the most likely Leicester player to be the subject of transfer speculation. 

The Danish international is the only Leicester player to enhance his reputation still further this season during the club’s stuttering title defence. 

– Aiming high –

That has seen him linked with Manchester United and news this week that he had switched agents fuelled the rumours, but Shakespeare has played down fears of losing Schmeichel. 

“I think he’s totally entitled to change his agent if the other agent is out of contract but what I would say is he’s been very, very professional and I think his level of performance has shown that,” Shakespeare said. 

“Nothing has affected him and the type of character he is, he’s a very strong character. I expect him to carry on with the way he’s performing.

“I’m not aware of any interest. I’ve said before that I have no problems with players wanting to progress and play Champions League, which we’ve offered this season but ultimately Kasper is happy here. 

“You can see that in the way he conducts himself, he’s in the form of his life but we have to cross that bridge when we come to it. 

“We’ve had no offers so there’s nothing really to talk about.”

Shakespeare will again be without captain Wes Morgan because of a hamstring injury and Claudio Ranieri’s former assistant is ready to wait until the end of the season to discuss his own long-term future. 

“I’m happy to bat questions away and deal with it an the end of the season,” he said. 

“We’re not mathematically safe and I want, the players want and the club wants to finish as high as possible.”

The future of Watford manager Walter Mazzarri has been questioned throughout the campaign.

But the Italian insists he is confident he will still be in post at the start of next season and has already started planning for next term. 

“I think it even more than before. If I look at my team, how we play, my contract, I am sure that after watching how we did last year, we can have a great Premier League season next year,” he said. 

“The club knows what I have said to them about next season and I have a clear idea, but we still have four games to evaluate the team. 

“Even though I have a clear idea it is important to see which players will come into the team and give everything to the team.” 

With an eight-point gap separating Mazzarri’s side from the bottom three, Watford have all but guaranteed their Premier League status. 

The manager, though, is aware his side must improve away from home next season after failing to score on the road since the end of January.

“It’s something we need to evaluate. I need for my team to have same mentality at home. Same mentality, personality, and something we need to work on,” he said.

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