Leicester ready for Premier League bow
If history is anything to go by, losing the opening game of the season isn't a bad thing. Surprisingly, four of the past five newly promoted sides to do so at home have gone on to avoid the relegation trapdoor. Only Sunderland failed to in the 2005-06 campaign.
As comforting as that may be to the eternal pessimists among us, in reality this stat means very little. Of far more relevance is Leicester City's formidable home form ahead of their first Premier League fixture of the season. The Foxes lost just two league games (Nottingham Forest and Brighton) at the King Power Stadium last term. They also cruised through preseason undefeated, rounding things off with a solid 1-0 win over Werder Bremen.
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During this run, they even beat Everton 1-0 in Thailand thanks to Gary Taylor-Fletcher's goal. Not wishing to give too much away, though, neither side fielded their strongest 11. Leicester will do so Saturday, with record signing Leonardo Ulloa -- fresh from a brace against Rotherham -- and ex-Aston Villa winger Marc Albrighton both likely to make their debuts.
Everton, on the other hand, have some injury concerns. Star defender Seamus Coleman is struggling with a hamstring strain, and 28 million pound striker Romelu Lukaku lacks match fitness as he has been rested following his exploits for Belgium at the World Cup.
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From Leicester's point of view, this could be the perfect time to face the Toffees, who have a nasty habit of coming unstuck on opening day. Everton haven't kicked off with an away win since a 2-1 triumph over Charlton in 2001. Home or away, the only time the visitors have started with maximum points in the last six years was a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in 2012.
Not only are Everton notoriously slow starters, but they really haven't impressed this preseason, losing to both Celta Vigo and SC Paderborn. Even though Roberto Martinez's side are certainly European contenders, it is a wonderful chance for the in-form Foxes to get some points on the board -- something they will be itching to do given Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are all to come between now and mid-September. Clearly, the fixture generator is a Nottingham Forest fan...
Leicester supporters are hoping two new faces are added to the ranks between now and the big kickoff. Former Argentina international Esteban Cambiasso and Watford's Troy Deeney -- the villain who scored a last-ditch winner against Leicester in the 2012-13 playoff semifinals -- have both been linked with the club.
There is substance to the Cambiasso deal, who is a free agent after leaving Inter Milan. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson was forced to confirm his interest after the deal was leaked to a national paper by someone he dubbed "a clown".
Cambiasso would be a huge coup, especially considering Tottenham were (and potentially still are) chasing his signature. He has won a raft of titles with River Plate, Real Madrid and Inter Milan -- including the 2010 Champions League -- and has been capped 52 times by Argentina.
His pending addition would alter Leicester's formation. Neither Danny Drinkwater nor Matty James deserve to be dropped from central midfield, so Cambiasso would probably sit in front of the back four, leaving only Ulloa or Dave Nugent up front. It would be no surprise and a pretty sage move for Pearson to field a five-man midfield.
The smart money is on a tense and tight opening game, especially with both teams' new signings still to jell. Plus, there's usually very little to choose between the teams when the Toffees visit Leicester.
Everton can glean confidence from the fact that they haven't lost at Leicester since a 2-0 defeat at Leicester's former stadium, Filbert Street, in 1998. Yet the last four meetings in Leicester have ended in draws, and it wouldn't surprise me if that trend continues Saturday.
Thankfully, the time for predictions and preamble is over. Leicester City are back in the Premier League -- let the adventure begin.