LEICESTER: The renewed feel-good factor at Leicester City is seeping away and the Premier League champions still have work to do ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion.
Craig Shakespeare, who took over as manager following title-winning boss Claudio Ranieri’s sacking in February, has lost just three of his 11 games in charge.
Yet the third of those defeats, at Arsenal on Wednesday, left the Foxes still with just 37 points and glancing over their shoulders at potential relegation problems with five games remaining.
One more victory should allay any lingering fears, but until the 40-point barrier is passed, Shakespeare knows his own long-term future is unlikely to be resolved by Leicester’s Thai owners.
“When they first appointed me I said if they want to (talk) that is fine,” he said. “I am quite comfortable, but my remit was to the end of the season.
“I said before we need some more points on the board and we are disappointed not to get them, but we move on now to Saturday.”
Shakespeare will be keen to restore Wes Morgan to the heart of his defence for the trip to Albion, where the Leicester manager played as a midfielder and cut his teeth in coaching.
Morgan returned from a back injury for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final defeat to Atletico Madrid, but the centre-back then suffered a hamstring problem that forced him to miss the 1-0 midweek loss at the Emirates Stadium.
– Missing Morgan –
“I am hoping he can train fully with the lads who haven’t played at Arsenal,” said Shakespeare. “It is a quick turn around and we need to dust ourselves down very quickly and it doesn’t give us much recovery time.
“We are disappointed in the dressing room but we have another game against a tough opponent on Saturday.”
Yohan Benalouane has deputised impressively during Morgan’s absence while the pair played together against Atletico when Robert Huth was suspended.
That would give Shakespeare a difficult selection decision if Morgan is declared fit, although the captain would be favourite to start ahead of the French-born Tunisian.
“Anybody out of the side, whether they are the captain or not, will have a tough job to get into the team,” said Shakespeare.
“But I will pick the side accordingly.”
For West Brom the mantra of recent weeks has not been backed up by results.
Having reached their initial target of 40 points in late February, Tony Pulis’s men have won just once since and remain on 44 points with five games still to play.
That win gave them the notable scalp of Arsenal, but Baggies captain Darren Fletcher is still looking for more from the squad.
“We want to get the points ourselves, we don’t want anybody to do us any favours,” he said. “We’re disappointed with our form just now, we’re having a down period, but it’s probably just about lifting the confidence and reiterating we’ve had a great season.”
The former Manchester United midfielder added: “We need to remember what we’ve done for the last six or seven months, how good it’s been and get back to that.
“Nothing’s changed really, the intensity levels are still the same, but it’s just not happened for us.
“We’re still eighth in the league and we want to finish eighth, that’s the target. We want to get to 50 points.”