Leicester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers Preview: Best of the
rest battle in prospect at the King Power?
Leicester and Wolverhampton Wanderers open their Premier League campaigns on Sunday afternoon | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images

Leicester City host Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon looking to steal an early march in the race for UEFA Europa League football.

The Foxes have splashed the cash under Brendan Rodgers this summer and will be hoping to build on their ninth-placed finish under the Northern-Irishman last season. Meanwhile, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have already begun their season in the Europa League qualifying rounds so will be hoping once again to challenge at the top end of the Premier League table.

Key Battle

Heading into the match, one of the strongest features that both sides possess is an extremely talented midfield. The hosts have the likes of Wilfred N’didi, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and new signing Dennis Praet all in contention. Wolves’ centre of the park is blessed with Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Leander Dendoncker and Morgan Gibbs-White.

However, the two that will be in direct competition are two of the most exciting young players in European football – Ruben Neves and Youri Tielemans.

The latter impressed hugely on-loan at the King Power Stadium last season with three goals and five assists, resulting in a club-record permanent deal this summer. Neves’ talents are already well documented as he starred in Wolves’ first season back in the top-flight during 2018/19.

The match then could well be decided by which player can have the bigger influence on the match in an offensive sense.

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What happened last time?

The last match between the two sides could potentially be one of the all-time Premier League greats as Nuno’s men edged a exhilarating 4-3 win at Molineux in January.

Goals from Diogo Jota and Ryan Bennett put the hosts 2-0 up early on, a lead they held until the break. A quickfire strike from Demarai Gray following half-time and an own-goal from Conor Coady hauled Leicester, then managed by Claude Puel, level.

Wolves managed to regain the lead midway through the second period as Jota scored a second. The drama was not finished there though as Foxes’ skipper Wes Morgan headed in an 87th minute equaliser.

Just as it looked as though the sides were going to share the points, Portuguese forward Jota secured the match ball as he steered the ball past Kasper Schmeichel for a third time with practically the last kick of the game to round off an amazing Midlands derby.

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Team News

Wolves only have one doubt ahead of the match and that is youngster Gibbs-White who has been suffering with a knock but he should be okay to feature. 

A few players could be in line to make their respective debuts having joined the club in the summer. Pedro Neto and Bruno Jordao have joined from Lazio, whilst Jesus Vallejo has been brought in on-loan from Real Madrid. Wolves have also recruited some attacking support by swooping for AC Milan’s young forward Patrick Cutrone.

Much like Nuno, Brendan Rodgers has been busy in the transfer market. The East-Midlanders bagged the signature of Tielemans on a permanent deal and Ayoze Perez also arrived in a big-money deal and will hope to impress having enjoyed an eye-catching pre-season. They have also strengthened their options at the back with James Justin being snapped up from Luton Town. A deadline day swoop for Sampdoria midfielder Praet rounded off their summer business.

One man who will certainly not be featuring is Harry Maguire having completed a move to Manchester United for a world-record fee for a defender.

Beyond that, Rodgers does not have any injury worries to contend with. The only doubt is N’didi who has not long returned from an extended break due to his excursions in the African Cup of Nations.

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Predicted Line-Ups

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Choudhury, Tielemans, Maddison; Perez, Albrighton, Vardy.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patricio; Jonny, Boly, Coady, Bennett, Doherty; Neves, Moutinho, Dendoncker; Jimenez, Jota, Traore.

Managers’ Thoughts

Ahead of the match, Leicester boss Rodgers told that he has been impressed with Wolves since promotion. Talking to Leicestershire Live, he said: “I think they have done fantastic, watching them in the Championship, they played a very clear way, they have obviously invested heavily in the squad, but you still have to synchronise the team.

“They achieved European football which will give them confidence. They now come into the season and they will look to build on that. They have fantastic players, and he [Nuno] is a fantastic manager.”

Despite Wolves’ travels to Armenia in the Europa League, manager Nuno does not believe it will affect his side at the King Power Stadium. He said: “We did the first part of the recovery on the players in the dressing room (in Armenia) and then on the plane - there are a lot of small details that can help them.

“I'm not complaining, I never do as I believe that at the moment we are in this competition and we have to forget what was before and not think what could happen - prepare yourself on a daily basis and we'll be able to do that.”