Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare denies fall-out with Claudio Ranieri
MADRID -- Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare has insisted he is "comfortable with my own conscience" after claims by former manager Claudio Ranieri that "somebody behind me" may have contributed to his sacking by the Premier League champions in February.
Shakespeare, Ranieri's assistant during Leicester remarkable title triumph last season, has guided the club to brink of top-flight safety since taking charge of the team in the wake of the Italian's dismissal.
Ranieri's departure prompted claims of unrest behind the scenes, but the former Chelsea manager dismissed suggestions that player power had driven him out of the club, instead cryptically pointing to an unnamed person who he believes could have accelerated his sacking.
"I listened to a lot of stories about this," Ranieri said. "Maybe it could be somebody behind me, but also, these little problems I had the year before and we won the title."
Ranieri subsequently followed up his comments by telling the Italian media on Tuesday that Shakespeare was a "loyal assistant," and speaking in Madrid ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Atletico, Shakespeare insisted he had no issues with his predecessor.
"I was at the under-23s last night, but I have been filled in about it [Ranieri's interview]," Shakespeare said. "I have seen clips of it.
"I think Claudio was in good humour and came across as I know him, but from my first interview, I have said that spoke to him when he left and he thanked me for my time. I thanked him and there has never been any falling out. This is football and I am glad to see that he is enjoying his football again.
"But my stance is still the same. We never had a falling out. I haven't seen the interview live, but I think I have answered the question.
"Free speech is there for anybody, I don't have a problem with it. I am quite comfortable with my own conscience, so I can't do anything about it."
Leicester go into the game without injured captain Wes Morgan and with four players -- Jamie Vardy, Wilfred Ndidi, Islam Slimani and Robert Huth -- facing a suspension if they receive a booking.
And Shakespeare admits that his players must beware the dangers of being booked against Diego Simeone's team.
"We are very well disciplined as a team, but yes, the players will be reminded about their responsibilities and not to get any stupid cards for things like encroaching," he said. "It is something we will talk about with the players.
"Game management is important, never more so than in Europe, with where the game momentum might go. You have to be prepared for the 'what ifs,' but we will be ready for that.
"As for Wes, he has no chance of playing. He's here and travelled with the team, but he will play no part in the game."
In Morgan's absence, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel will captain Leicester at the Vicente Calderon.
And the Dane admits that the occasion, the club's first European quarterfinal, will be a reward for a squad of players who have overcome adversity to make it at the highest level.
"When you look at the DNA of our team, the type of characters and the journeys they have had, the lower league rejections, these are the kind of nights you want," Schmeichel said. "When I was in League Two, playing these games was what I was wanting to aim for.
"The big pressure games like this, this is what you live for, what you play for."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_