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Shakespeare backs Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League

Atletico Madrid can go on to win the Champions League after knocking out Leicester City in the quarter-finals, believes Craig Shakespeare.

News 19 Apr 2017, 04:30 IST
Craig Shakespeare
Leicester City coach Craig Shakespeare

Craig Shakespeare backed Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League after Diego Simeone's side knocked out his Leicester City team 2-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Saul Niguez gave Atletico the lead on the night - extending their 1-0 advantage from the first leg - but Jamie Vardy scored to level the match and spark intense pressure on the LaLiga giants, but the visitors survived to progress to the semi-finals for the third time in four years.

Shakespeare felt Atletico's quality showed over the course of the two matches as the Premier League champions exited after a pair of hard-fought battles.

"Their history speaks for itself," Shakespeare said at his post-match news conference. "Finalists in two of the last three years and we knew what type of challenge to expect. After the first leg we felt we were in the tie and we had a right go but ultimately we've just failed at the last hurdle.

"I think they have been unfortunate in the last few years and we can see the quality they have in both games. They'll be tough opponents in the semi-finals but I don't see any reason why they cannot win it.

"We are disappointed to go out, but I'm immensely proud of the team and I thought we ran an excellent team close and gave them a really good shot at it. The players can be immensely proud of their performance but ultimately they are very disappointed to go out."

A tactical switch with two half-time substitutions almost turned the game around for Leicester and Shakespeare hopes a taste of European football pushes his players to qualify for the Champions League again in the future.

"We had planned it [the change to three at the back] in advance, but I hadn't expected to do it that early," the manager added. "I actually thought we played all right in the first half but we needed to be more of a threat in their half and especially in front of goal.

"We spoke about playing direct and playing Jamie and Riyad [Mahrez] just off Leo [Ulloa] and having wing-backs. We worked on it in training but I didn't expect to do it that early. I thought the players' attitude to make it work was first class and in the second half we got the goal but couldn't get the breaks to score more.

"I hope the benefit of this is they want some more [European football]. They're very disappointed in there but they can be proud of what they have achieved. They should want more of this because all players want to play at the highest level, but we have to get back to winning ways in the Premier League now."

Shakespeare's long-term future remains unresolved but the 53-year-old, who succeeded sacked Italian Premier League-winning manager Claudio Ranieri, is keen to discuss an extended deal.

"I'm not looking too far ahead, I think you've got to be careful you don't get too carried away in football," Shakespeare said. "We have to concentrate on points in the Premier League and climbing the table. The here and now is the important thing and Arsenal a week tomorrow is the next game.

"[My future] is not in my hands, it's in the club's hands and we'll sit down at the end of the season. I'll sit down before then if it arises but my contract is to the end of the season. I've enjoyed it and I've enjoyed the Champions League and pitting my wits against one of the best managers and sides in the world."

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