Leicester City and Sunderland both left it late to save themselves last season, and they meet on the opening day of 2015-16 after a summer of surprising managerial developments.
Despite his often unconventional manner, Nigel Pearson guided the Foxes to a stunning succession of victories in the final weeks to lift to 14th place with 41 points, but a scandal involving three young players – including his son – in Thailand worsened the already simmering tensions between himself and the owners and for that he was duly sacked.
The appointment of Claudio Ranieri undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows, especially after his short and miserable tenure in charge of the Greek national team, but he inherits a talented squad. Survival will again be the primary aim, but they have added quality in the shape of Austrian defender Christian Fuchs and Japanese Shinji Okazaki.
For a while it looked as if Sunderland would have to find yet another new manager, but owner Ellis Short’s powers of persuasion eventually overcame the retirement plans of Dick Advocaat. Given their performances in the dying stages of last term, that looks to represent great news for the Wearside club.
Short is determined to avoid another relegation scrap, but they have not added greatly to the squad, with Dutch midfielder Jeremain Lens their most significant purchase. Younes Kaboul becomes part of an already experienced backline, and it will be interesting to see how his side approach this clash and whether they go all out for the three points. Both games between the sides in 2014-15 ended goalless, suggesting that this will be another tight encounter.
New signings Yohan Benalouane and N’Golo Kante will be assessed by Leicester, with Ranieri also faced with the dilemma of having to choose between a multitude of striking options.
Adam Matthews could make his first Sunderland appearance at right-back, but the are highly likely to be without Wes Brown.
Last Meeting (at Leicester): There was little between the sides as they ended all square at 0-0 in November 2014 as Leicester failed to score for a fifth consecutive match. Matt James had two efforts well saved by visiting goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, while Steven Fletcher failed to convert when put through for Sunderland’s best opportunity.
Played for both – Matt Piper: The winger began his injury-hit career at Leicester, making 16 Premier League appearances before he moved to Sunderland upon suffering relegation in 2002. He was a regular for the Black Cats in his first season before a series of knee problems took hold.
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