English Premier League 2014-2015 Season Preview: Leicester City
The Foxes were playing in England’s third tier as recently as 2008-09. Now, for the first time in a decade, Leicester City (known in the U.S. as a former home of goalkeeper Kasey Keller) has reached the top of the pyramid. But there’s no giddiness, despite the altitude.
Owned since 2010 by Thai billionare Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester is handling its promotion with pragmatism. The club has splashed its cash on only one summer signing, paying around $13 million for Argentine forward Leonardo Ulloa. That’s a club record, but there’s no guarantee the former Brighton and Hove marksman will start. The Foxes are choosing instead to rely on the players who ran away with the second-tier Championship, along with a couple of experienced free agents.
Leicester’s most important piece of offseason business probably was the re-signing of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (the son of Manchester United legend Peter), who reportedly attracted interest from the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan. He’ll anchor a spine featuring Jamaica national team defender Wes Morgan and midfield workhorse Danny Drinkwater. The Foxes are solid – the question is whether a Championship team can score regularly against the big boys.
KEY ARRIVALS: MF Marc Albrighton (from Aston Villa), GK Ben Hamer (from Charlton Athletic), F Leonardo Ulloa (from Brighton and Hove Albion), D Matthew Upson (from Brighton and Hove Albion).
KEY DEPARTURE: MF Lloyd Dyer (to Watford)
PLAYER TO WATCH: Danny Drinkwater. He spent his youth career with Manchester United but couldn’t crack the senior lineup and wound up bouncing around on loan before signing with Leicester in 2012. Now, at 24, he’s getting his Premiership shot. Drinkwater makes the Foxes tick in midfield. He’s a good passer of the ball and can score as well. His eight goals ranked fourth on the squad in 2013-14.
KEY STAT: Each of the past two Championship winners failed to survive past their first season in the Premier League. Reading was sent back down after coming in 19th in 2012-13 and Cardiff City finished bottom last spring. The 2010-11 second division winner, Queens Park Rangers, escaped relegation by a single point the following season but then finished last in 2012-13.
STADIUM: King Power Stadium (Built in 2002; Capacity 32,312)
The club’s nearby Filbert Street home had served soccer needs since 1891, but Leicester City moved into its new fully enclosed seating bowl for a modern touch, now complete with a partially transparent façade and roof to allow extra light onto the pitch.