The early returns have been a mixed-bag for Leicester City following their already-legendary 2015-2016 campaign. The club has swayed from positive result to negative result quite often in this young season.
They’ve gone from the unique experiences of the ICC and Community Shield in the preseason, to a disappointing opening day loss at Hull City. Then from a scoreless draw with Arsenal, to a relatively easy 2-1 win over Swansea. And most recently, from a 4-1 drubbing at the hands (and feet) of Liverpool, to two comprehensive defeats of overmatched opponents; including a 3-0 Champions League - yes, Champions League - victory over Club Brugge of Belgium, and a 3-0 return to Premier League action against Burnley.
There have been both positive and negative developments to arise as well. We’ve had our fears confirmed in that the loss of N’Golo Kanté has put an added strain on the back line, but we’ve also learned that the attack can still be potent.
Continuing this theme of fluctuation has been the form of some of the Foxes’ main men. The most notable of these is Riyad Mahrez, who’s gone from looking uninspired early on, to simply remarkable against Brugge and Burnley.
Another interesting point of reference has been the play of the new men. Ahmed Musa has shown flashes of brilliance as a super-sub, while Islam Slimani looks every bit the player a record price-tag would seem to indicate he is after his debut brace against Burnley.
All of this leads to what feels like an early tipping point for Leicester. Upcoming matches against Chelsea in the EFL Cup, Manchester United in the Premier League, and Porto in the Champions League have the ability to fully shift the scale one way - good or bad - for the champions. This set of games will have huge implications for three different trophy quests.
It all starts on Tuesday at the King Power against old rivals Chelsea. Although the match may not see both sides at full strength, it should still be a competitive affair that involves at least a few big name players.
The League Cup also represents City’s best chance at claiming a title between the three aforementioned competitions. Should the Foxes win, they would head to Manchester with some serious momentum.
The match at Old Trafford will be a rematch of this season’s Community Shield. Leicester gave the Red Devils some stiff competition in that one, but a late winner from superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic foiled their first chance at silverware.
An away fixture to one of the best teams in the league should come with a healthy bit of caution from fans, but a victory would be a major boost for City. As Claudio Ranieri would say, it would allow them to continue to dream. And what a dream it’s been.
Combine that with Manchester United’s recent struggles (Europa League loss to Feyernoord and league defeat at Watford) means it could have massive implications for both sides.
The last matchup of the gauntlet will provide the KP with the first Champions League action in its history. With it, however, will come the first real Champions League test. FC Porto, the Portuguese giants, are a much more dangerous opponent than Brugge was.
Leicester will be hoping that Slimani - a man dubbed the Dragon Slayer while at Sporting Lisbon thanks to his knack for scoring against rivals Porto - continues his impressive run.
Expecting a win in all three of these games is probably unreasonable, but this is the same club who overcame 5000-1 odds to become the most unlikely champions in the history of England. If the Foxes manage to pull off this incredible feat, we could be in for another dream season, albeit not quite like the last one.
Still, Leicester is staring ahead at a great chance to send a message. Even if they falter in one of the matches, they can prove once and for all that they are here to stay. And not just in the Premier League, but near the top of it.