Leicester City Football Club begin their 2021/22 Premier League campaign this Saturday at the King Power Stadium, facing off against Wolverhampton Wanderers. After two consecutive seasons of missing out on the Champions League on the last day of the season, there’s no small amount of optimism that the Foxes will get over the hump and break into the top four this season. Let’s look at how the season is set to unfold.
All Will Be Revealed in August
In spite of being only four days from the first competitive kick of the season, many unanswered questions remain. Questions like “Who will be in the squad?”, “What will the squad numbers be?”, “Which other teams will be in our Europa League group?”, and “Just how amazing will the third kit be this year?” Here are the key dates when these questions will be answers:
13 August: Third kit reveal. The club Twitter account left a not-especially-cryptic hint regarding the third kit. If the image is any indication, the kit will feature charcoal grey and hot pink and the club badge will be entirely illegible.
There is a very good chance that the squad numbers will be revealed at the same time. I have discerned this through my amazing powers of deduction and the fact that it is the day before the first match and the players are likely to have names and numbers on the backs of their shirts.
27 August: Europa League group stage draw. Leicester City avoided the qualifying rounds again this year, but which group or even which pot we’ll be in is up in the air. Depending on which clubs fail to qualify for the Champions League and drop to the Europa League, we could be in pots 1, 2, or 3. Don’t worry, though: Thursday nights in Baku are still very much a possibility.
31 August: Close of the Premier League transfer window. By the 1st of September, after three weeks of league play, we’ll finally know who will be in our squad, at least until January. Expect us to be linked to a raft of central defenders and left-footed right-sided attackers until the window closes.
Most people treat the season as a horse race, paying inordinate attention to the beginning, the halfway point, and the end, regardless of the fact that every match counts equally. Since this is an established tradition, I see no reason to do it any differently.
Out of the gate:
14 August: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
23 August: West Ham United (A)
28 August: Norwich City (A)
11 September: Manchester City (H)
No offence to Wolves, but we’ve certainly faced trickier starts to the season. Nonetheless, there’s a banana peel aspect to each of these matches. This will be manager Bruno Lage’s first competitive match in charge of the West Midlands side. West Ham finished just behind Leicester last year and will see this as a chance to signal intent to move up. I’m always leery of newly promoted sides early in the season, and Norwich City have bought well in spite of losing their best player in Emi Buendia.
After the international break, we face the champions. Of course, Manchester City are always a big ask and one suspects they will field a somewhat stronger lineup than what we faced in the Community Shield. If a gun were to be held to my head (and I’m in Texas, so that’s always a possibility), I would predict seven points from this period.
The Halfway Mark (AKA the Festive Period):
I’m sure there are two other matches here, but I’m struggling to focus on anything beyond facing Manchester City and Liverpool 48 hours apart. That said, these are the sort of games that would have made Claude Puel a legend had he managed similar results against lesser opposition. We’ve often done well against big clubs in congested timelines, so I won’t allow myself to despair.
Everton away is never a simple affair, but in theory, Norwich City’s thin squad will be cooked by the time we face them on the first day of 2022. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I think seven points from these four matches feels about right. Just don’t ask me to guess which matches we’ll win to get to 7.
The Home Stretch:
This is a somewhat kinder run-in than we’ve seen in recent years, so if we’re in a good place at the end of April, one has to like our chances of finishing strongly. Every club finished below us last year and our squad looks a good deal stronger on paper.
The difficulty of this part of the schedule will come down to “Do these teams have anything to play for?” If the answer is “no,” that should simplify matters. However, each of these clubs could just as easily be involved in a chase for Europe or a battle to avoid relegation. But, even if they’re all in a scrap of one sort or another, I like our chances here. Book it: Twelve points from twelve.
The League Cup: It’s hard to see Leicester treating this as anything other than a glorified reserves competition. I see nothing wrong with that.
The FA Cup: Having won the Cup last year, my suspicion is that there will be far less emphasis on defending it. The job this year is to qualify for the Champions League and any competition that doesn’t earn a spot at that table isn’t going to be a priority.
The Europa League: Did you know that the Europa League winner does qualify for the Champions League? If the group stages go well, expect a strong push to advance in the knockouts stages.
The BIG Question:
Where will Leicester City finish on the table?
We know. Oh yes, we do. But that’s for another article.