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Champions.

What a pleasant surprise it was to see Leicester lift the Premier League trophy in May.

Leicester City 2016-17 season preview - Defending the impossibleThe season ahead will be a testing one for the club yet equally as exciting as Leicester feature in the UEFA Champions League for the first time.

Summer recruitment

Leicester have made six additions to their squad in the off-season as they prepare for Champions League football, the most exciting being the £16.6 million signing Ahmed Musa. He brings an extra dimension to the team with his extreme pace and eye for goal.

All eyes will be on Nampalys Mendy who was secured for £13 million to replace N’Golo Kante in the middle of midfield. He has a tough task to replace one of the stars of last season.

Other signings include young Polish winger Bartosz Kapustka (£7.5 million) who performed strongly at Euro 2016, with Ron-Robert Zieler (£3 million) and Luis Hernandez (free) signed as goalkeeping and defensive depth respectively.

Strengths

Leicester are a team with extreme speed. They are lethal on the counter-attack through the explosive Jamie Vardy, who combines so well with Riyad Mahrez. The addition of Musa will only increase the vitality within the team in their high-energy approach to the game.

Central-defensive partnerships are vital to any team’s ability to defend well with few better then Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. They lead the Leicester defence with both strength and ferocity. Their remarkable ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch last season saw Leicester obtain critical victories on their way to the title.

Weaknesses

Leicester’s incredible rise has left the club with a difficult task of building a squad to compete in multiple competitions. The club has focused on signing a number of young players who have shown good potential. These players’ abilities have yet to be tested at the highest level with careful management required to ease them into the thick of the action, a task not easy with an extensive fixture list.

Kante was the heart of midfield for Leicester. His unique playing style was something to behold last season with a seemingly telepathic relationship with Mahrez and Vardy. His departure leaves a sizable hole in the middle of Leicester’s midfield. Mendy has since arrived but he has a different skill-set and will prove less effective in their game style.

Key Player – Riyad Mahrez

The standout player of the 2015-16 Premier League season, a remarkable campaign saw the midfielder score an astonishing 17 goals whilst providing 11 assists.

It is extremely rare for a player to rise from obscurity to player of the year material in a single season. Even fewer are able to maintain such a high level of performance, and that is the challenge for Riyad Mahrez.

The club hierarchy believe he will turn down any potential transfer requests as the Foxes take part in the Champions League, yet rumours of a move away persist. Mahrez is essential to Leicester’s prospects this season. His sensational wide play can bamboozle even the best defences, creating remarkable opportunities for himself and his team mates.

Prediction

The champions are extremely unlikely to retain the title with traditional powerhouses recruiting both players and managers in abundance. The challenges of competing in Europe will test the depth of the squad to its maximum. If the Foxes can maintain their excellent record with injuries, there is no reason why this side cannot return to Europe, even in the Europa League.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Liam Bednarski, Twitter: @liambednarski
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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