Leicester City return to Premier League football this season for the first time in 10 years, having comfortably led the Championship since Boxing Day in what became a record-breaking season for the club.
Not only did they win an impressive 31 matches from a possible 46, with only six losses, they also registered an incredible 21 game unbeaten streak from mid-December to early April. They return to the Premier League with high expectations for survival.
Leicester have a large, varied and well-balanced squad, which held them in good stead last season and will be of particular benefit this year.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had, arguably, his best ever season, making 51 appearances and notching 18 clean sheets - his superb performances seeing a surge of interest from big clubs around the world. Luckily for Leicester, their number one went on to pledge his commitment to the club and has recently signed a four-year contract extension. His dominance in goal will be absolutely vital in the Premier League and will likely prove the difference between success and failure in many games this season.
Much of Leicester's success is built on a versatile and youthful midfield, with Player of the Year Danny Drinkwater and Young Player of the Season Matty James taking the pick of the plaudits. The two young midfielders, both youth products of Manchester United incidentally, made 88 appearances between them last season, with Drinkwater grabbing 8 goals in the process. Both are young, both have room to improve further still with the club and both will bring forward their hard work and enthusiasm from last year.
Up front, the experienced David Nugent remains reliable as ever, having been the clubs top goal-scorer for three years in a row now. A fan favourite, he has recently signed a contract extension and will certainly grab some goals for the club next season. 27-year-old Jamie Vardy provides back-up, having finally found some form with the club, finishing last season as runner-up in terms of goals with a respectable 16 in all competitions.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Leicester's squad is their depth, with a number of players able to take to the pitch and put in a good performance. With this as a benefit, they can afford injuries and rotations with fewer repercussions - something that will prove a huge positive when they begin their campaign.
Leicester moved early this transfer window to secure the services of a number of free signings, in order to bring in players with Premier League experience.
Veteran defender Matthew Upson joins on a one-year contract, bringing with him extensive top-flight experience and will provide useful back-up for the defence. Ex-Aston Villa winger Marc Albrighton also arrives for free and could challenge for a first-team place, offering youthful flair and skilful wing-play, with many already predicting him to be the best free acquisition of the summer. Goalkeeper Ben Hamer is brought in to provide back-up for Schmeichel, while youngsters Jack Barmby and Louis Rowley arrive from the Manchester United academy, in order to flesh out the squad.
The most exciting transfer for the club, however, has been Argentinian striker Leonardo Ulloa - brought in from Brighton and Hove Albion for a club record fee of £8 million. A prolific goal-scorer, Ulloa will challenge Nugent up front and the two could prove a deadly partnership if given the opportunity.
Leicester have had a superb, unbeaten pre-season, registering 5 wins from 6, scoring 16 goals and keeping 2 clean sheets.
An initial 6-1 demolition of lower-league side Ilkeston FC was followed up with a morale-boosting 1-0 victory over Everton. Another victory, over Walsall, was then followed by a 1-1 draw against Preston North End, before the club registered two more wins against MK Dons and Rotherham United, with just Werder Bremen left to play in their final friendly.
While they are already in good form, the club face a difficult opening run of games, playing Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd within their first five matches.
Summary and Predictions
Leicester have a strong squad and a healthy mentality and will certainly fight to survive this season. Their top-class goalkeeper, solid defence, adaptable midfield and prolific strikers stand them in good stead and the club will seriously be aiming to survive relegation come next summer. Their summer acquisitions have been sensible and well-selected, they have had a superb pre-season and to finish 17th or above isn't beyond the realms of imagination for the club.
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