It is still early days but after four games of the Premier League season, Leicester City are the side who look best equipped to challenge the big six. Brendan Rodgers’ charges are third in the standings heading into this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, with two wins (against Sheffield United and Bournemouth) and two draws (against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea) representing a solid start to the new campaign.
It is no surprise that Leicester have started 2019/20 strongly. Rodgers lost his first game in charge in March as Watford emerged 2-1 victors at Vicarage Road, but thereafter the Foxes embarked on a fine run of form. Fulham, Burnley, Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town were all seen off by Rodgers’ men, although Leicester then stuttered to win only one of their final five fixtures, a handsome 3-0 success against Arsenal.
They may have lost standout centre-back Harry Maguire to Manchester United, but Leicester had a positive transfer window. Receiving a world-record fee for a defender represented a fantastic deal, particularly as Caglar Soyuncu – who joined the club last summer without making much of an impact in 2018/19 – has made a promising start to life as Maguire’s replacement. Leicester pulled off a coup in tying former loanee Youri Tielemans down to a permanent deal, while Ayoze Perez will offer further creativity in attack despite a relatively slow start to life at the King Power Stadium, and Dennis Praet is an astute acquisition in the centre of the park.
Leicester’s recruitment let them down in the season following their astonishing title triumph, but they have been a great deal smarter in the market since then. Indeed, the Foxes have successfully renewed their squad in recent years, gradually phasing out some of the 2015/16 heroes and replacing them with young, hungry, up-and-coming players with resale value. James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi, Ricardo Pereira, Soyuncu, Praet, Tielemans and academy graduates Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury are all 25 or under, while Jonny Evans, Kasper Schmeichel and the evergreen Jamie Vardy offer complementary experience.
Claude Puel did a decent job during his time in charge, but the Frenchman and Leicester always felt like an awkward fit. Rodgers, conversely, has continued Puel’s evolution of the team’s style of play while doing a much better job of bringing the fans on board. Leicester are more possession-focused these days than they were under Claudio Ranieri, but they also retain counter-attacking prowess and a threat in transition.
The bookmakers’ odds do not reflect this, but there is an argument that Leicester should be considered favourites to defeat Manchester United this weekend. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side may have thrashed Chelsea 4-0 on the opening weekend, but they have been utterly unconvincing since then. Leicester will show no fear at Old Trafford and in the likes of Maddison and Tielemans, they possess players who will be willing and able to get on the ball and make things happen. At the top of the pitch, Vardy will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of running in behind former team-mate Maguire, who has already shown himself to be slow on the turn this term.
Leicester made a slow start in their 1-1 draw with Chelsea last month, but the visitors to Stamford Bridge recovered well and probably did enough to win the match with their second-half display. Even if they do not beat United on Saturday, another positive performance at the home of a big-six side would further demonstrate Leicester’s Champions League credentials.