Premier League team guide: Leicester in the spotlight
Hot on the heels of winning the FA Cup for the first time, Leicester will once again be aiming to keep the so-called ‘big six’ on their toes.
Bendan Rodgers has a squad full of talent in all departments at his disposal and proved adept at balancing Europa League football with domestic success in 2020-21.
With everything shaping up nicely off the pitch, including a new £100million training facility, the expectation will be for the Foxes to challenge for more silverware this term.
Leicester achieved their highest Premier League points total (66) since the club's famous title win in 2015-16 — picking up 15 fewer than they secured in that iconic campaign.
But they were disappointed to miss out on a top-four spot in 2020-21, ultimately finishing fifth despite Champions League football being firmly within their grasp for much of the season.
Defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham in their final two fixtures did the damage, putting a slight dampener on their FA Cup final sucess over the Blues.
Zambian forward Patson Daka, 22, was signed from Red Bull Salzburg for a fee believed to be around £23m, while £17m was spent on Boubakary Soumare, 22, from Lille.
Both were domestic champions in their respective leagues last season, with Daka finding the net 34 times in all competitions.
In search of some extra Premier League experience, full-back Ryan Bertrand also joined on a free following his release from Southampton.
With Rodgers seemingly happy with his summer's business, the Foxes were rocked by a serious injury to Wesley Fofana during pre-season, which will see him out until the new year at least.
They did not waste time in finding a more-than worthy replacement, though, with Jannik Vestergaard arriving from Southampton for £15m on the eve of the season.
3-4-1-2: Schmeichel; Vestergaard, Evans, Soyuncu; Castagne, Tielemans, Soumare, Barnes; Maddison; Iheanacho, Vardy.
Despite the hefty price tag, Daka will have to force his way into the starting line-up after both Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy enjoyed a stellar 2020-21.
Kasper Schmeichel kept 11 clean sheets last term and is a steady pair of hands between the sticks, not making a single error directly leading to a goal.
Fofana and Jonny Evans were a dominant duo in front of the Danish goalkeeper — they both featured in the division's top 10 players for possessions won in the defensive third per 90 minutes, with 4.45 and 4.43 respectively.
While the Frenchman will be a big loss following a bright debut season in England, the arrival of 6ft 5in Vestergaard should fill that aerial void.
Star man: Jamie Vardy
Every season starts with the same question of ‘is he past it?’ — and time and time again, Vardy emphatically silences any doubters.
With 15 Premier League goals and an additional nine assists in 2020-21, the 34-year-old forward is still a crucial part of the Leicester machine.
He remains at his clinical best, ranking seventh in the league for big chances scored (0.47 per 90), ahead of both Mohamed Salah (0.41) and Bruno Fernandes (0.35).
With Daka now waiting in the wings should Vardy not hit the ground running, expect the former Fleetwood man to be as motivated as ever.
Up-and-comer: Harvey Barnes
A knee injury cruelly cut Harvery Barnes’ playing time short in 2020-21 but the 23-year-old was a constant threat when on the pitch.
With 4.11 take-ons attempted per 90 minutes, his dynamic dribbling rarely gave opposition defenders a chance to breathe.
Similarly, 1.2 shots on target per 90 places him inside the league's top 20 players for that metric, level with prolific team-mate Vardy.
With Barnes now back in training, the Foxes academy graduate will be hungry to make up for lost time and put the disappointment of missing out on an FA Cup final appearance behind him.
The boss: Brendan Rodgers
With a major trophy in English football finally under his belt, Rodgers will now have his sights set on further success.
Falling agonisingly short of Champions League qualification again last term would have frustrated the former Liverpool boss.
But the Northern Irishman, 48, will see no reason why his side cannot achieve a top-four finish this time around.
With three shrewd-looking signings already secured, the final pieces of the Leicester puzzle are falling into place.
If Rodgers can convince James Maddison to remain at the King Power Stadium, do not be surprised to see the Foxes go one step further and break into the Champions League places in 2021-22.
All information correct as of 10am, August 16, 2021