Leicester v Sunderland
3pm Saturday 8th August
Previous meeting: 0 – 0 Saturday 16 May 2015 at the Stadium of Light [match report]
The last time these two teams met, Leicester turned up at the Stadium of Light on the back of 6 wins in 7 games, needing only a draw to secure Premier League football for another season. Leicester got the point that they needed that day, as did Sunderland four days later at the Emirates.
Although both clubs managed to avoid relegation, the mood amongst both sets of fans could not have been more different come the end of May. Sunderland were left searching for a head coach after temporary-appointment Dick Advocaat decided to retire from club management. In Nigel Pearson, Leicester had the eighth longest-serving English Football League manager at the time and could look forward to benefiting from some off-the-field consistency. The Premier League does not tend to offer many surprises when it comes to a change of management, considering 18 managers have changed roles since the beginning of the 2013/2014 season, however Leicester’s decision to sack Nigel Pearson was a genuine shock.
Sunderland, meanwhile, had managed to convince Mr (and Mrs) Advocaat that another season in charge of Sunderland would benefit everyone involved. Leicester have since appointed journeyman Italian Claudio Ranieri as manager. Perhaps understandably, Ranieri’s appointment has been met with some apprehension from sections of Leicester fans. Although experienced, the tinkerman has not managed more than 100 games in charge at a club since leaving Chelsea in 2004. His last role was a disastrous five-game spell in charge of Greece in which he managed one draw and four losses. His previous club management role was with Monaco, in which he achieved promotion from Ligue 2 and a second-place finish in Ligue 1. On the positive side, he does bring a huge amount of experience to the club and Leicester should benefit from Ranieri’s contacts within the game.
I spoke to some Leicester fans about the upcoming season, the appointment of Ranieri and their thoughts on Sunderland.
It’s been an interesting Summer at Leicester, to say the least. With a new manager in charge, what are your expectations for the season?
- I think I speak for most of the fans when I say I really don’t know what to expect this season. I’ve got over the massive disappointment of Pearson being sacked, but still don’t really know how to feel about Ranieri coming in. I like him and he’s worked at some massive clubs, but it still seems like strange appointment for a variety of reasons. I’m nowhere near as pessimistic as some of the press and other fans seem to be though. We have a pretty decent squad and have only added to it over the summer, without losing any key players. I’m quite confident we will stay up.
- Shit or bust, basically. I really thought Pearson would have taken us up a level next year (he never went backwards in terms of league positions), and that slow stability is out of the window now. Ranieri has a habit of having a great first year followed by a poor second, so I really hope that this continues and we play some nice football and have distant dreams of Europe come January. Otherwise we’ll be bottom all season.
Your squad seems to be quite settled with only a couple of comings and goings. Who should be on Ranieri’s shopping list before the end of the transfer window?
- We definitely need a couple of midfielders. Losing Cambiasso was a massive blow, and arguably our other best CM Matty James is out till Xmas. I will be seriously worried if we don’t strengthen in that area – though I’m sure we will. Strangely enough we keep being linked with more strikers when we already have 5 in the squad.
- Two midfielders, as simple as that. Kante seems like such an obvious choice that he’s clearly never going to come – but we need some purposeful industry and a leader with guile.
You spent an estimated £9 million on Andrej Kramarić in January. He only managed two league goals in 13 appearances, do you expect him to make an impact this season?
- He actually looked incredibly talented at times last season. I was sometimes baffled as to why he didn’t start more – due to our league position, he may have seemed like a bit of a luxury player at times I guess – his movement is brilliant though and he possesses loads of flair. I think he will probably go on to better things with a bigger club – there’s a reason Chelsea were after him.
- I’ve still got faith in Kramaric, and when he did get the odd sub appearance only Cambiasso looked more assured on the ball. I’m certain he’ll get double figures this season and end up moving to Spurs in the summer.
The games against Sunderland last season failed to produce a single goal in either fixture. What’s your prediction for the opening game?
- I think a draw is probably another fair bet. Though with the home advantage, we may have an edge. I’m sure it will be cagey either way #fencesitting
- The home 0-0 against Sunderland was one of the low points last season – neither team looked like scoring that day, and didn’t look bothered by it. Anything better than that will be nice – I’ll go for a cliche 2-1 home win.
At the time of writing, Sunderland are 4th favourites for relegation above the three promoted clubs. What are your thoughts on Sunderland’s chances this year, and what do you make of their squad?
- I think they’ll stay up. Advocaat is a good manager and most of the players there are definitely Prem quality. It always seems like Sunderland should be doing better than relegation scraps every year. They have a massive fanbase and stadium.
- Like us, a little low on overall star quality but a canny manager and a couple of important players who I think will keep you up. Goals will be a problem though as I personally think we dodged a bullet with Defoe. Larsson and Cattermole are actually the two players I’d take from your team right now.
Leicester have been one of the quietest clubs in terms of transfers so far, but you can expect to see at least another two players brought in to offer more options in midfield. They may also look to offload a striker, as they will struggle to provide enough minutes to Nugent, Vardy, Ulloa, Kramarić and Okazaki unless they make a run in either of the cup competitions.
So, what will Sunderland be facing on the opening day? Well, it looks as though Ranieri is currently continuing with Pearson’s 3 at the back formation. If they do choose to play this formation you could expect to see Roberth Huth, Marcin Wasilewski and club captain Wes Morgan at the back, Jeff Schlupp and Marc Albrighton offering width, Danny Drinkwater and Andy King in the middle, Riyad Mahrez at number 10 and a strikeforce of Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy.
There is talk of Wes Morgan needing some rest after playing every minute of Jamaica’s Gold Cup campaign this Summer, in which case Liam Moore or new signing Christian Fuchs could step in. Leicester do have decent depth up front, so I would not be surprised to see David Nugent, Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki or record signing Andrej Kramarić force their way into the starting lineup. Leicester have approximately £25 million pounds worth of strikeforce to choose from. Not bad for a team that has only been back in the Premier League for only one season.
16.05.15 (Prem) Sunderland 0 – 0 Leicester
22.11.14 (Prem Leicester 0 – 0 Sunderland
01.01.07 (Championship) Leicester 0 – 2 Sunderland
16.09.06 (Championship) Sunderland 1 – 1 Leicester
23.04.05 (Championship) Sunderland 2 – 1 Leicester