Leicester have respect now, but their hardest challenge comes in 16/17…

Going into the 2015/16 Premier League season, Leicester were chalked up at a huge 5000/1 to win the title by bookmakers around the world.

To put their achievement into perspective, the Foxes were a much shorter price with the bookmakers to be relegated from the top flight of English football than they were to finish in the top half of the table at the end of the campaign. However, despite the odds being stacked against them, Claudio Ranieri’s men pulled off one of the biggest fairy tales in the history of professional football.

The question now is whether they can repeat their sensational efforts last season and defend their Premier League crown, and could they match those heroics in Europe and go on to earn Champions League success also?

It has been a mixed summer so far for Ranieri. Before Euro 2016 his leading striker Jamie Vardy was linked with a move to Arsenal. That story seemed to drag onto into the European Championships, but he ended any suggestion he could be set for a move away from the Foxes by signing a four-year contract at the club, where he is thought to now be earning £100,000-per-week.

Another of Leicester’s stars of last season, Riyad Mahrez, has been subject to a number of transfer rumours. Arsenal and Chelsea are thought to be interested in signing the Algerian international, though Ranieri has said the player will not be leaving the King Power Stadium this summer.

Unfortunately for Ranieri and Leicester fans, they were unable to keep hold of the services of N’Golo Kanté as the Frenchman moved to Chelsea for £32m. That comes as a big blow to the Foxes as the 25-year-old played a huge part last season in a defensive midfield role, where he protected the back four. Those performances last term earned him a spot in France’s Euro 2016 squad but sadly for Leicester fans, it also alerted clubs from all over the world.

One of the key factors to Leicester’s success in the 2015/16 campaign was the resolve and togetherness of the players. This was summed up early in the season when they were 2-0 down to Aston Villa, and came back to win 3-2. Ranieri was happy to turn to some of the fringe players in his squad when there were injuries in his starting XI.

Defending Champions Leicester are no longer going to be able to fly under radar, but they won’t be treated as underdogs. As hard as it is to win the Premier League, it’s even harder to defend it; it it would be wrong to write them off given how easily they won their trophy last season. Many of their challengers have invested heavily on and off the field, though, so it could be one of the widest open leagues in a long time.

Pundits repeatedly said last season that they would fall away and they could not last the distance, but week after week the club kept proving them wrong as they marched on to the title.

After that success they certainly won’t be so quick to right them off this season and Leicester will be given the respect they so rightfully deserve.

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