Leicester, Arsenal clash after false starts
When the English Premier League champions take on the runners-up, the stage should be set for a clash between two teams bursting with confidence.
That won't be the case when Leicester host Arsenal tomorrow. Not after both teams slumped to embarrassing defeats on the opening weekend of the new season. Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri even talked about his team's target of avoiding relegation after a 2-1 loss to newly-promoted Hull, while Arsene Wenger conceded that his Arsenal side just wasn't ready for an opening match that ended in a 4-3 home defeat by Liverpool.
Along with the final score, a worrying aspect of Leicester's game was just how much Ranieri's defence lacked the protection of combative midfielder N'Golo Kante, who has joined Chelsea.
Having built last season's success largely on a counter-attacking game, Leicester also found it harder to change roles and take the game to their opponents.
"We need to put things right early, look forward to the next game, and get a result there," captain Wes Morgan said. "We're at our home ground, and we want to put on a good display."
There was better news off the pitch, though, with Leicester's announcement on Wednesday that Algeria playmaker Riyad Mahrez, a key figure alongside 24-goal Jamie Vardy in last season's title triumph, had signed a new contract through to 2020.
The King Power Stadium is already sold out for a game that will set Vardy, who squandered a series of chances at Hull, against the team he rejected following a transfer offer soon after the end of last season.
For their part, travelling Arsenal fans will be hoping that some of the first-team regulars who were rested against Liverpool including centre-half Laurent Koscielny will be back in the side, but there will be no expectations of a repeat of their team's remarkable 5-2 victory in the Midlands last season.
The 66-year-old Wenger said he may be tempted to take the gamble of reintroducing Koscielny into the side while revealing both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi face three weeks out after picking up knocks against Liverpool.
"I will have to take a gamble maybe, but I will still have 48 hours to decide that," Wenger said yesterday. "If I have to take a gamble on one, it's certainly on him (Koscielny)."
The action starts early, with Manchester United at home to Southampton tonight.
Buoyed by his team's encouraging 3-1 win at Bournemouth, which included a debut league goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jose Mourinho takes charge for his first league game at Old Trafford.