Match Preview: Leicester City vs. Arsenal

Date: Saturday 20th August 2016
Location: King Power Stadium, Leicester
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Kick-Off: 17:30 BST

Last season’s Premier League champions Leicester City welcome runners-up Arsenal to the King Power Stadium this weekend with both sides looking to bounce back after disappointing opening day defeats.

Arsenal’s 4-3 loss at home to Liverpool last Sunday came a day after last season’s surprise champions had succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away at new boys Hull City, and both sides will be keen to ensure they don’t start the new campaign with two straight defeats when they meet this weekend.

For Arsenal, their current injury problems were exaserbated during their loss to Liverpool last weekend with both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi having to be withdrawn due to injury, and now both players look set to be out until September’s international break at the earliest.

Long-term injuries sustained by Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista during pre-season meant the inexperienced duo of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding were forced to start together at the heart of the Arsenal defence last weekend, however manager Arsene Wenger is likely to welcome back Laurent Koscielny to the starting line-up for this game.

The 31-year-old had missed all of Arsenal’s pre-season games this summer after reaching the Euro 2016 final with France, but the lack of options in defence means Wenger is likely to call upon him earlier than he might have anticipated. Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil, who also did not feature in pre-season, are likely to be welcomed back into the squad, but a starting spot for either seems unlikely.

Leicester, meanwhile, have the benefit of being able to call upon a fully fit squad, with Riyad Mahrez certain to start after agreeing a new deal at the King Power Stadium this week. The Algerian winger, who won the PFA Player of the Year award after a stunning season last time around, had been linked with a move to Arsenal throughout the window but his new deal has put paid to those rumours.

There was a genuine link between Arsenal and Jamie Vardy, however, with the England striker being subject to a £20m bid from the Gunners before the European Championships that activated a release clause in his contract. He reportedly met with Arsenal’s representatives and considered a contract offered to him but after days of speculation, Vardy committed himself to the Foxes by signing a new four-year deal.

Leicester only lost three league games last season and two of those came against Arsenal, with a 5-2 defeat at the King Power being followed by a dramatic 2-1 loss at the Emirates in the reverse fixture. However, despite these wins for the Gunners, they still finished 10 points behind this weekend’s opponents as their title challenge faded in the final weeks and months of last season.

Unavailable: Gabriel, Iwobi, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Ramsey, Welbeck (injury)

Predicted Line-Up: Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal; Elneny, Xhaka, Walcott, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis

Callum Perritt

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