Leicester season preview: Brendan Rodgers hunts Champions League leap

The Foxes have invested smartly in their squad as they bid for a top-four finish

Tom Kershaw
Wednesday 11 August 2021 16:30
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<p>Rodgers is aiming to build on last season’s FA Cup victory</p>

Rodgers is aiming to build on last season’s FA Cup victory

Last season

It was a tale of joy, brilliance but also agonising shortcomings for Leicester last season. Once again, Brendan Rodgers’s side slipped out of the top four by the finest of margins – a single point separating them from Chelsea – when the Foxes’ fate had been firmly within their grasp for much of the season. That late disappointment of finishing fifth for a second successive campaign, though, will not survive as long as the elation of their FA Cup final victory over Chelsea. Youri Tielemans scored a spectacular long-range winner at Wembley, while their overall performances continue to blend immense talent and shrewd management. If there was one clear area to improve, though, it came in the Europa League, where the Foxes stumbled to an exit in the first knockout round against Slavia Prague.

Transfer window so far

It has been a typically astute transfer window for the Foxes thus far, with their two major signings – Boubakary Soumare and Patson Daka – well bedded into the squad after deals were struck early. Soumare, signed from French champions Lille, is an excellent midfielder who’d been tracked by several major European clubs while Daka is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Erling Haaland after a stunning breakthrough at RB Salzburg. He will provide much-needed support to Jamie Vardy, while Ryan Bertrand will provide excellent cover at left-back, too. The club continue to be linked with a potential new signing at centre-back, but the major area of uncertainty now focuses on James Maddison. The attacking midfielder has been linked repeatedly to Arsenal, although Leicester are currently said to be holding firm on their lofty asking price.

Manager

Brendan Rodgers has clearly established himself as one of Europe’s premier managers since arriving at Leicester and continues to better his squad as both a team and as individuals. He has already turned away interest from Arsenal and Tottenham during that time and, with another four years left to run on his contract, Leicester fans can continue to feel confident in the coach and the structure at the club.

Key players

Jamie Vardy. With 15 goals and nine assists in the Premier League last season, Vardy remains such a lethal and incisive threat for Leicester. Although the addition of Daka will provide cover for the 34-year-old, Vardy remains the beating heart of the squad and the player who lifts them in key moments. It is a credit to Leicester’s fine recruitment, though, that the tag of key player can be applied to so many names in their squad. Wilfred Ndidi is a vital pillar in front of defence, Kasper Schmeichel is a defiant leader in goal and Harvey Barnes may just prove himself one of the league’s finest players if he’s able to rediscover momentum after such a long and cruel injury layoff.

What would be success?

Silverware last season brought intoxicating joy and memories, but the clearest target for Leicester this season is a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League. Even if the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal are much-improved this season, Leicester have long shown they are capable of holding their own and that is very much an attainable target. In Europe, they can hope to mount a considerable challenge in the Europa League and should have aspirations to reach the latter stages.

August fixtures

(h) vs Wolves, Saturday 14 August, 3pm

(a) vs West Ham, Monday 23 August, 8pm

(a) vs Norwich, Saturday 28 August, 3pm

Bookies’ ranking

5th (66/1 for the title)

Predicted XI for opening match

Schmeichel; Bertrand, Amartey, Soyuncu, Pereira; Tielemans, Ndidi, Maddison; Barnes, Perez; Vardy.

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