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James Maddison, and what might be ahead

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
James Maddison of Leicester in action during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

You know, they have a chance.

It’s only one game, but this Leicester City side have a shot to be better than last season. To stay up and, then, stay in the Top 10. To avoid a mysterious late-season collapse. To maybe make a legitimate run at the Top 6 and Europe.

I’m not sure I’m sold on Claude Puel and his possession-based 4-5-1. And I’m not yet sure the Foxes have anything like the magic elixir of Riyad Mahrez when they need him most (see here).

But the team that stretched Manchester United on the opening Friday in a 2-1 loss that didn’t feel quite fair might have enough pieces to compete with all but Manchester City in this league.

The Foxes were arguably the better team -- the caveat being they didn’t put most of their chances away and United made the most of what it got -- and were several pieces short of what you imagine would be their ideal lineup.

Daniel Amartey and his erratic right arm won’t be starting at right back, Jamie Vardy doesn’t spend most of the typical game on the bench, and a mid-30s Wes Morgan isn’t usually your captain or a starting center back (I’d like to think, anyway).

Ricardo Pereira, Rachid Ghezzal, and Demarai Gray all had their moments on Friday.

Whether Andre Silva is the best choice to join Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison in the midfield remains a question. Give me Iborra in that slot, but I think that three would be fine either way.

And the ever-industrious Mark Albrighton still waits on the bench (I’m willing to bet he’s starting on one wing or the other by November).

But it’s James Maddison who might be the surest sign that this Leicester team could be just fine.

How many Premier League teams have central midfielders who play the role that Maddison looks ready to play for Leicester?

He looks like a classic No. 10 -- carrying the ball, running at defenders, picking his head up, spraying passes into the channels and into the little creases that most people can’t see (much less hit with the ball) around the opposition’s penalty area, and pulling the trigger on the occasional dangerous shot that most keepers (why, de Gea?) probably don’t stop.

Maddison also did all that with a chip on his shoulder, an edge that saw him clip a ManU player here and there in an “I’m not putting up with your crap” sort of way that, if he plays for your side, you love. And if he doesn’t, you really despise that guy and every dangerous ball he sends into the heart of your defense.

Again, it’s one game. And Leicester lost.

But if Maddison and most of these Foxes can stay healthy...

And if someone can find the back of the net besides Vardy ...

And if Harry Maguire stays past Christmas …

And if Johnny Evans or someone who isn’t Morgan pairs up with him in the back …

But this might be a another season to remember (ask me again after Wolves).