Leicester defence under scrutiny ahead of Atletico rematch
LONDON (Reuters) - Leicester City will be powered by a sense of injustice and a belief that their depleted team can extend one of football's most unlikely success stories when they seek to overturn their Champions League quarter-final deficit against Atletico Madrid.
But with Robert Huth suspended following a booking in the 1-0 first-leg loss in Madrid and captain Wes Morgan struggling with an injury, the Foxes can only hope a reshaped defence will cope against one of Europe's finest counter-attacking sides at Leicester's King Power stadium next Tuesday.
"(Losing Huth) is a blow," manager Craig Shakespeare said after Wednesday's loss. "We have a few on yellows, so we knew it was a tightrope. Robert is a very committed player.
"There is some hope with Morgan. He has been out on the grass for the last few days, and we hope he will be all right. I think it will be touch and go. If he is out, we will have to have a look at what we do with team shape," Shakespeare added.
Leicester could be down to the bare bones for the second leg with Yohan Benalouane, who played in Madrid, and Marcin Wasilewski the only recognised central defenders available.
For all of Atletico's dominance, they hold the slenderest of leads courtesy of Antoine Griezmann's contentious first half penalty, awarded for a foul on the Frenchman by Marc Albrighton, despite replays showing the initial contact was outside the box.
Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson waved away the protests, leaving Shakespeare to renew his complaints after the whistle.
"We were hard done by," he said. "It is one of the major decisions in the game, a definite foul, but outside the box.
"I think it is a disappointing moment, a key moment. The referee has to get that one right. You can't guess."
Leicester were also fortunate to encounter Fernando Torres on an off night, with the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker missing several chances, even ballooning one effort out for a throw-in.
On Tuesday, the Premier League champions can expect to face a much tougher second-leg task than in the last round when, under previous manager Claudio Ranieri, they took a valuable away goal back from the 2-1 defeat in Seville.
But former Leicester manager Martin O'Neill, who commentated on the game for television, believes Leicester can emulate the 2-0 home win they managed against Sevilla.
"It will be tricky for (Atletico)," he said. "I don't care how much experience they have. Remember when that goal in Seville went in? You felt the King Power would be really alive, and it was.
"This time, multiply that by the possibility of a semi-final place in the Champions League. (It will be) extraordinary."
Leicester will rely on striker Jamie Vardy, an isolated figure at the Vicente Calderon Stadium, to cause Atletico problems up front and try to shut out Griezmann, not the easiest of tasks given his 24 goals for Atletico this season.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by John O'Brien)