LEICESTER: Leicester’s clash with Stoke on Saturday marks the beginning of another potentially historic month for the champions as they target domestic survival and shock European glory.
Eight games are ahead in a busy period for Craig Shakespeare’s rejuvenated side, who continue to combine their fight against Premier League relegation with a quest for further surprises in the Champions League.
Stoke’s visit to the King Power Stadium is followed by another key home game against Sunderland on Tuesday, with the Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid also looming.
And Leicester winger Marc Albrighton believes his team, six points above the relegation zone, will enter the momentous period in good shape after the international break.
“The lads were ready for a break and we know we’ve got a lot of games this coming month that are going to be massively important to how our season shapes up,” said Albrighton.
“I think the break going into that is fantastic and it’ll allow all the lads to be ready.
“It’s going to shape our season and the sooner we can secure our safety the better. It’s our main focus, especially this coming week.
“We’ve got two home games and it could go a long way in making sure we’re safe, but also it could go the other way if we don’t get the results we want.”
Since the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri, Shakespeare has overseen four wins in his four games in charge by returning to the line-up that won the club the title last season, but Albrighton believes the whole Leicester squad will be called upon during April.
“The team might change every now and again with so many games,” he said.
“There might be lads coming in that haven’t played and we all need to be prepared for that, every single member of the squad.
“It’s a massive month for us but it’s one we’re looking forward to. We’ve just got to be ready. With the break we’ve had, we’ve got no excuses.”
Ninth-placed Stoke have the far more modest goal of finishing above West Bromwich Albion, who are a place and seven points in front of them.
The club hierarchy are already looking ahead to next season.
Chief executive Tony Scholes said: “If the right player came along, we are always looking at opportunities.
“However, I don’t think you can be having record signings every transfer window.
“And if you look over the last three or four, we’ve done a big signing in each window.”
Striker Saido Berahino, midfielders Joe Allen and Giannelli Imbula, and winger Xherdan Shaqiri have all been brought in over recent transfer windows at considerable expense.
“But we are always looking at the opportunities on how we can improve on what we’ve got,” Scholes added.
And Scholes is predicting that other players could be in the final weeks of their Stoke careers with Glen Johnson, Phil Bardsley, Shay Given and Stephen Ireland all out of contract in the summer.