The English Premier League kicks off on August 10th at the Theatre Of Dreams, with many time champions Manchester United hosting former champions Leicester City. Jose Mourinho is keen on silencing his critics, especially his noisy neighbors, while Claude Puel is ‘hell bent’ on stamping his mark on the Foxes. Leicester City will bow into action for the second consecutive time on a opening Friday fixture after losing to Arsenal in a 4-3 thriller last season.
The Foxes will not be outfoxed
This year marks the third season running where Leicester City is featured in the opening game. One cannot forget that stellar 2016/2017 season when the Foxes were pegged back 2-1 by newcomers Hull City on opening day, but they however fought gallantly throughout the season to be crowned champions for the first time in EPL history. The Foxes has a favorably opening day record where in their last ten opening games, which includes the League one, Championship and EPL, they have a record of 6 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses.
Puel, in his second season, is determined to finish higher up the table. He has gone about bolstering his squad by acquiring the services of James Maddison, Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans and Danny Ward. He has however lost the services of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City and with Manchester United breathing down their backs for England's World Cup hero Harry Maguire and Sporting CP hoping for the return Islam Slimani on loan, Puel may want to dip in the transfer market before it closes at midnight on Thursday.
The Foxes drew 1-1 with Valencia at the King Power Stadium in their penultimate preseason game and with just one warm up game against Lille before kick off, Puel is still in a bit of bother as injuries plague his side. Nevertheless, he gave us a slight glimpse of what his first 11 might be for the opening kick off.
Kasper Schmeichel in goal, club stalwart and captain Wes Morgan alongside Yohan Benalouan as the two center-backs, Puel may opt for the attacking prowess of full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell, and there will be no surprises in central midfield with Wilfred Ndidi partnering Vicente Iborra, Fousseni Diabate will fill the slot if Gray is still absent to operate on the left flank while the reliable figure of Marc Albrighton patrolled the right flank recently vacated by Riyad Mahrez.
In attack, Kelechi Iheanacho deputised for absentee Jamey Vardy and new signing James Maddison will be utilized in the number 10 role behind him. A lot may happen between now and kick off, which may force Puel to make some adjustments which may suit the Foxes fans. Irrespective of who the first 11 are, the Foxes would love to get off to a flyer which will set them up nicely for their next four games. They will be at home to Wolves, and Liverpool and away to Southampton and Bournemouth.
Three times a charm
Leicester City's opponents, Manchester United, is no stranger to be featured in opening games. However, the fans may think the season approaches too fast and would want a few more weeks for manager Jose Mourinho to get his machine well oiled.
This is Jose's third season and if you are a fan of the flamboyant, charismatic, pragmatic, self proclaimed 'Special One' you would be well aware of his third season woes. Jose is arguably one the best coaches in modern day football. He is well decorated and well travelled. He has won trophies where ever he goes. However, most of his achievements took place between his first and second season in charge. He has never won any title in his third season. Will his third season at Manchester United break the drought?
In his first stint with Chelsea after winning 6 trophies in 3 years and was named the most successful manager in the club’s history, he left by "mutual consent" after a series of disagreements with owner Roman Abramovich.
His second thee year stint was at Real Madrid. A man who knows how to grind out results, won three titles in his three years at Madrid and again left by mutual consent".
Mourinho described the 2012–13 season as "the worst of my career". He then made his return to Stamford Bridge, his old stomping ground, for his second stint and as night follows day, he was dismissed for a second time by Chelsea’s boss Abramovich by "mutual consent" but not before winning the EPL and the EFL Cup. Will he be leaving midway his third season by “mutual consent” at Manchester United or the buck stops here?
Trophies vs Flare
Despite his trophy winning exploits, many fans aren't appreciative of his style of play. He is touted as being very defensive minded. He is criticized for "parking the bus" especially against the bigger clubs and will experiment too much with the smaller teams and lose.
Mourinho won two major trophies in his first season as Manchester United manager. He also maintained his 100% record of winning every major European Cup final as a manager. In a bid to shake off his dismal third season performances Jose is going about business differently.
He got United off on their 2018 pre-season a week after the conclusion of the World Cup, with a 1-1 draw against Liga MX side Club America at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Juan Mata equalised for the Premier League side after a Henry Martin opener. The Red Devils journeyed to Santa Clara, California, where they drew 0-0 with Major League Soccer outfit San Jose Earthquakes.
United then kicked off their International Champions Cup commitments with a 9-8 win in penalties against Serie A giants AC Milan, following a 1-1 draw in regular time.
Rivals Liverpool gave them a tough time in a derby clash, with the Reds taking a 4-1 win, but Mourinho's side rebounded well with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid at the Hard Rock Stadium in Florida.
The Red Devils have already made big moves for the likes of Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant who arrived at the club midway through the transfer window, while bidding farewell to former club captain Michael Carrick after the ex-England international announced his retirement earlier on in the season. Additionally, defender Daley Blind left to return to Ajax after four years at Old Trafford for a €20 million transfer fee.
Manchester United face the plucky Brighton away the following week so they must start on a winning note to settle the nerves of the worrying fans. The Red Devils will host a tough Tottenham outfit, with away matches against a tricky Burnley and a stubborn Watford completing their opening five games.
Mourinho's men travel to the Etihad Stadium for the first Manchester derby of the season, which takes place on November 10. The following month they meet Arsenal at home and Liverpool away, on December 4 and 15 respectively. The last time the two met on opening day was way back in 1998, that game ended in a nail bitting 2-2 draw. Both team also boast similar history of winning the title after losing on opening day.