Danny Ward & the Foxes aim for a Europa League push – Leicester City 2018/19 Opposition Preview

7 August 2018

Danny Ward was one of several intriguing summer signings by Leicester City, who again look primed to be one of the Premier League‘s best outside the top six.


When we play them: September 1 (away); January 30 (home)

Last season: Won 2-1 (home); Won 3-2 (away)


The Foxes may never repeat their extraordinary title heroics of three seasons ago, but they remain a good team in their own right.

Losing Riyad Mahrez to Man City was an undoubted blow, but they have spent money wisely and are assembling a strong squad.

Ward was one of those to make a summer switch to the King Power and it will be interesting to see if he can usurp Kasper Schmeichel over time and become first choice between the sticks.

On top of that, the purchase of Jonny Evans looks extremely shrewd, especially if they can keep hold of England’s World Cup hero Harry Maguire.

Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison have also added quality in areas that required strengthening and a nucleus of the side that won the title are still around.

Leicester will not be strong enough to mount a top-six challenge, but they will fear nobody around them when it comes to aiming for a Europa League spot.

Everton and West Ham will also feel seventh place is theirs for the taking, but Claude Puel will fancy his side’s chances.

They are a team who will upset a few of the Premier League‘s big-hitters during the campaign—let’s hope that starts at Old Trafford on Friday night.

 

Leicester City

Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City (Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport)

Players in: Danny Ward, James Maddison, Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira, Rachid Ghezzal, Ryan Loft, Caglar Soyuncu, Filip Benkovic

Players out: Riyad Mahrez, Ahmed Musa, Robert Huth, Ben Hamer

Best XI: Schmeichel; Pereira, Maguire, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Ndidi, Silva; Gray, Maddison, Albrighton; Vardy


We spoke to Leicester fan Jamie Thorpe (@thorpie54) to get the lowdown on the Foxes’ upcoming season and who he thinks Liverpool’s star man will be.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you for the new season, and why?

A strange blend of the two. Our early-season recruitment was spot on, and addressed the most pressing issues within our squad.

At the back Jonny Evans for £3 million is an excellent buy who could forge an effective partnership with Harry Maguire, and Ricardo Pereira provides a fast and exciting option at right-back.

James Maddison joined Leicester after an outstanding season in the Championship, and he will likely be the cog that ties everything together by operating as a central playmaker in our 4-2-3-1 system.

At just 21, Maddison is an outstanding prospect, and he is one of many within the Leicester squad—Ben Chilwell (21), Hamza Choudhury (20), Fousseni Diabate (22), Demarai Gray (22), Wilfred Ndidi (21) and Kelechi Iheanacho (21)—who all form a young and exciting core, seemingly ready to take the spotlight this season.

However, the main issue for Leicester is that we have a squad that is both simultaneously bloated and too thin.

Certain positions also lack any real strength in depth, for example as Maguire and Evans are unlikely to be fit for our opening fixture, we head to Old Trafford with Yohan Benaloune and Wes Morgan at the heart of defence—not exactly ideal.

Then you have the issue of Mahrez. The Algerian is quite simply irreplaceable. Rachid Ghezzal has joined from Monaco and on the face of it seems a direct replacement, but in reality replicating Mahrez’s contribution will need to be shared amongst the squad.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 30, 2017: Leicester City's manager Claude Puel during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

What are your aims for the season?

Since Puel took the reins it has been obvious that we are a team in transition and the Frenchman certainly seems to be evolving the club in more ways than one.

On the face of it he is building a squad with both an impressive spine and pace and attacking verve on the fringes, all whilst developing youth within the cub.

The concern is that following the dreadful end to last season if we do not start well then our notoriously ruthless owners will not hesitate to cut Puel’s time at the club prematurely short.

Personally, however, I believe that Puel is the right man for the job so realistically I would like to see us better last term’s ninth-placed finish, but do so by playing an attractive style of football as this will provide the ideal foundation to compete with the top six in the coming seasons.

James Maddison of England during the Euro U21 Qualifying match at Bramall Lane Stadium, Sheffield. Picture date: 27th March 2018. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage via PA Images

Who’s your man to watch?

Maddison will look to fill a longstanding void as a true No. 10 to operate behind Jamie Vardy, and certainly seems to have the intelligence and technique to do so.

I would also recommend keeping an eye on Iheanacho this season, too.

The Nigerian international has looked extremely sharp throughout pre-season and will be given his chance in the opening games to prove that he is a viable alternative to Vardy.

* All rival supporter views taken before the end of the transfer window.

 

King Power Stadium

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 19, 2017: Players line-up before during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Leicester City and Liverpool at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Capacity: 32,312

Away fans’ pubs: The Counting House (near the ground) is away friendly and pretty good!

One piece of advice for visiting fan: I would advise taking the train rather than driving as parking can be an absolute nightmare.

Arrive a bit earlier than normal, too, as security upon entering the ground (searches etc.) has been heightened.

 

Liverpool

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) celebrates scoring his sides third goak of the match with team mates during the pre-season friendly match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. ( Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images)

How do you rate Liverpool’s chances heading into the season?

I remember in this preview last year saying that Liverpool were two or three players away from serious title contenders and this summer those boxes have been rather emphatically ticked.

The biggest issue last season seemed to be a lack of depth in attack and a lack of quality in other areas and the new signings this year add both.

Naby Keita and Fabinho completely transform the midfield, Alisson will provide solidity and assurance in goal and Xherdan Shaqiri is an excellent addition to the attacking positions.

If they can continue their remarkable goalscoring record then I think Liverpool represent the most serious contenders to Man City.

Who’s going to be the Reds’ Player of the Year, and why?

Everyone will be keeping a keen eye on Mo Salah to see if he can replicate the sensational levels he demonstrated all of last season, and if he can get anywhere close then he is the most obvious contender.

Just for an alternative though I would say Keita.

His passing and dribbling ability could make all the difference against deep defences—something that Liverpool are likely to encounter a lot of.


TIA’s Leicester Predicted Finish: 9th (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions)

Where Jamie says Leicester will finish: 8th

Where Jamie says Liverpool will finish: 2nd


This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC:

Arsenal | Bournemouth | Brighton | Burnley | Cardiff | Chelsea | Crystal Palace | Everton | Fulham | Huddersfield | Leicester | Man City | Man United | Newcastle | Southampton | Tottenham | Watford | West Ham | Wolves

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