The only achievement that would rival, or perhaps eclipse, last season’s astonishing Premier League victory would be to mount a realistic defence of the title.
Doing so would go a long way to signalling the end of an era defined by billionaire investors showering star players with cash in search of glory.
If, however, Leicester City are to do this, they’ll need to either dig into their recently-filled coffers or appeal to their players’ sense of loyalty in order to retain their services.
Here’s our prediction for the Foxes’ opening day starting line-up.
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel
The Dane played every single minute of the Foxes’ title winning season – 38 matches in which he kept a remarkable 15 clean sheets. At only 29, the player looks set to move even further out of the massive shadow thrown by his legendary father and will play a massive a role in Leicester’s Premier League title defense.
Left-back: Christian Fuchs
The former Austria national team captain was a mainstay in the Leicester starting line-up last season. Ranieri’s predecessor, Nigel Pearson, was responsible for bringing the 30-year-old to the King Power Stadium after his contract with FC Schalke 04 expired, and the full-back is certain to retain his place next season.
Centre-back: Wes Morgan
The central defender was nothing short of a revelation last season. Like Schmeichel, the Jamaica international played every minute of a campaign in which he made his top-flight debut. Having spent ten years at Nottingham Forrest before joining Leicester, the player’s loyalty is the stuff of legend. The Foxes can expect many more years from their captain.
Centre-back: Robert Huth
A Premier League victory is not built on the performances of a single remarkable defender, and Huth was the perfect partner for Morgan. Vastly experienced and a real threat in the air from set-pieces, the former Chelsea player will be one of the first names on Ranieri’s team sheet on opening day.
Right-back: Danny Simpson
It’s easy to forget that the rejected Manchester United full-back only made his first-team breakthrough three months into the Premier League season. Ritchie de Laet failed to win his position back from the 29-year-old and the rest is history for Simpson. The player looks to have found a home after being somewhat of a journeyman over the last ten years.
Right wing: Riyad Mahrez
If there’s one player the club will be hoping to retain during the transfer window, it will be the 25-year-old Algerian. Rightfully named the PFA player’s Player of the Year, the winger was at the heart of everything good that defined the club’s astonishing season. The likely loss of midfield partner N’Golo Kante will only increase club officials’ motivation to keep him at the King Power stadium and we expect them to succeed.
Defensive midfielder: Nampalys Mendy
Replacing N’Golo Kante will be as tough as any other player in the Leicester squad and with the amount of speculation surrounding his future it seems likely he will leave. In new signing Mendy, another small-in-stature-but-big-in-heart defensive midfielder, Leicester appear to have found a player who is up to the task of trying. The €15,5m signing from Ligue 1 side Nice is very likely to find himself in the starting line-up from day one.
Central midfielder: Danny Drinkwater
Another Manchester United player who failed to make an impact at Old Trafford, the 25-year-old has been a permanent fixture in the Leicester starting line-up since 2012. The England international was crucial in the club’s tumultuous past three seasons. Drinkwater has a huge future ahead of him and Leicester will be hoping that the majority of it will be spent at the King Power Stadium.
Left wing: Marc Albrighton
Another smart bit of business by Pearson – signing the former Aston Villa midfielder on a free after the Birmingham club opted not to renew his contract after only a single year on their roster. The former England U21 international made 34 appearances last season and looks set to retain his position on to the left of the strikers.
Striker: Ahmed Musa
The Foxes’ latest signing, the versatile Nigerian forward is likely to play slightly deeper than his strike partner, Vardy. Musa spent the past three seasons in the Russian Premier League with CSKA Moscow, where he made 125 appearances, scoring 42 goals and providing an impressive 14 assists.
Striker: Jamie Vardy
A rags-to-riches story befitting the club itself, few players in the Premier League captured the imagination of football fans worldwide like the 29-year-old did. Vardy’s rejection of a big-money move to Arsenal could be an indication of either his loyalty to the club that made his career or that he’s awaiting a more lucrative offer. Ranieri and the Foxes faithful would be hoping for the former. If Leicester are to mount a realistic defence of their title, keeping hold of the England international is a must.