Claude Puel’s Leicester City and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are to kick off the 2018/19 Premier League season this Friday night at Old Trafford.
Both teams should be confident of being ready having both had busy pre-season campaigns, with the Red Devils featuring in the International Champions Cup as well as their friendly tour in America. The Foxes, meanwhile, had a pre-season training camp in France followed by high-profile friendlies against the likes of Udinese and Puel’s former club Lille.
The match is the third consecutive season the Foxes have began their campaign away from the King Power Stadium, whilst it is the second season in a row that Manchester United have begun their season on home soil.
Comings and goings
The start of this Premier League season also marks the closing of the English transfer window. The time and date of the window slamming shut has been brought forward to before the start of the season in a bid for teams to be ready and prepared before a ball is kicked.
There are arguments however that this has in actual fact skyrocketed the market prices of players.
Leicester will begin life without their ‘magic man’ Riyad Mahrez who moved on to Manchester City for a club record fee of £60 Million. Notable first team signings for the Foxes include; ex-United defender Jonny Evans, James Maddison, Ricardo Pereira, Danny Ward, deadline-day transfers Filip Benković and Çağlar Söyüncü, as well as Mahrez’s Algerian team-mate Rachid Ghezzal.
Striker Jamie Vardy also signed a new four-year contract to keep him at the King Power Stadium until 2022.
United meanwhile completed the signings of Diogo Dalot from Porto and the high-profile signing of Brazilian, Fred, from Shakhtar Donetsk in a fee believed to have been in the region of £52 Million.
World Cup hangovers
Both teams had late arrivals to their respective pre-season training preparations following players’ FIFA World Cup exploits.
The Red Devils had to endure most of their pre-season without the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba who were the last to report back for training.
Likewise, Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire only reported back for training early this week meaning that most of these players probably won’t make it off the bench.
In Leicester’s camp, Nigeria’s Kelechi Iheanacho managed to shake off any notion of a World Cup hangover early and has scored a total of four goals in three games making him likely to start for the Foxes ahead of Vardy.
He will need to be at his best to reverse Leicester's terrible record at Old Trafford. The Foxes' have only won once against the Red Devils away from home in the Premier League.
Leicester are sure to be without midfielder Matty James who is still recovering from surgery on his Achilles. Puel will be keeping a close eye on the match fitness of Vardy and Maguire following their late arrival back to training. New Foxes' signing James Maddison may also be a concern after he limped off the game against Lille following a nasty challenge on the former Norwich City midfielder.
The long list of injuries and doubts for United include; Nemanja Matić, Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Marcus Rojo and new signing Diogo Dalot have all been ruled out through injury. There are also fitness concerns for Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku after he failed to feature in United’s final pre-season game against Bayern Munich.
Manchester United: De Gea; Shaw, Smalling, Bailly, Lindelöf; A. Pereira, Herrera, Fred; Sanchez, Mata, Rashford.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Chilwell, Evans, Morgan, R. Pereira; Silva, Ndidi, Albrighton, Maddison, Diabaté; Iheanacho.