Leicester City host Wolves in their opening game of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign on Sunday 11th August, and they will be hoping to get the edge over their seventh-place rivals – last term Nuno Espirito Santo’s men finished five points ahead.
Brendan Rodgers and the club’s hierarchy made some impressive additions to the squad this summer, including the record signing of Youri Tielemans, who made a profound impact at the King Power Stadium following his January loan move from Monaco, and Ayoze Perez for £30m.
The highly-rated Tielemans, whom Leicester had to fight off Tottenham and Manchester United for, adds some crucial creativity from midfield, while Perez should make the perfect replacement for the departed Shinji Okazaki, who was renowned for his work-rate – the Spaniard completed a solid 1.6 tackles and 1.1 interceptions last season, according to WhoScored.
As former Celtic boss Rodgers gears up for his first full campaign as Leicester boss, we take a look at four different ways in which the Northern Irishman could set out his XI for the opening game, including dream and nightmare scenarios.
Let’s take a look…
Leicester pulled off one of the deals of the season when they brought James Maddison to the King Power Stadium last summer and the attacking midfielder will be crucial if the Foxes are to be the ‘best of the rest’ – or even better – in 2019/20, so he’s likely to be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
The arrival of Dennis Praet, who is also a target for Arsenal, would mean the 2015/16 champions have one of the best creative cores in the Premier League, with the technical Tielemans dropping deep to complement tough-tackler Wilfred Ndidi.
Sampdoria man Praet is influential both on and off the ball, completing 1.9 tackles and averaging a passing accuracy of 87.3% in Serie A last season.
With this attacking-midfield trio, Jamie Vardy will have by far his best chance since of repeating his 2015/16 goalscoring exploits – the pacey Englishman managed an impressive 24 strikes that season.
Back in central defence, the Foxes will be praying they can fend off interest in Harry Maguire and leave their defence in excellent shape.
If Maguire does leave, however, his departure would likely see Filip Benkovic, whom Rodgers worked with during his time at Celtic, take his spot in the back line.
Leicester’s defence would be stripped of another vital asset if Juventus came calling for Ricardo Pereira, who is being lined up as a replacement for Joao Cancelo according to The Sun.
Meanwhile, Ben Chilwell’s potential exit could see a return to the starting XI for Christian Fuchs who, despite being one of Leicester’s legendary title-winners, is certainly past his best.
If Leicester are to prolong their impressive development since returning to the top flight, then investing both time and money in the younger players is a must.
Fortunately for Rodgers, there are plenty of talents waiting in the wings for their time to shine – none have more to prove than Kelechi Iheanacho, who is still yet to take off since signing for £25m two years ago.
First summer signing James Justin, who enjoyed a stellar campaign with League One winners Luton Town and chalked up an impressive 12 goal contributions, offers great competition at both full-back positions and should certainly be given ample opportunities.
Fousseni Diabate, 23, showed some promise while on loan at Turkish outfit Sivasspor last term and, should Rodgers give him a chance, should at least keep Perez and Rachid Ghezzal on their toes.
At this point there is every chance that Maguire will be on his way to Manchester this summer, as much as it will pain the Foxes faithful.
Fortunately, Leicester have some solid depth at centre-back and Maguire’s exit could signal the beginning of a glowing Premier League career for Benkovic, who was described as “absolutely brilliant” by Rodgers earlier this year.
Hamza Choudhury, Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi should form a stark spine at the heart of midfield, while Perez will surely be a strong contender to slot immediately into the starting XI.