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Claudio Ranieri warns of tougher season after opening day defeat

Saturday's defeat demonstrated how Leicester must negotiate the transition from underdogs to champions.

By: Reuters |
August 13, 2016 11:44:33 pm
Premier league, Premier league news, Premier league updates, Leicester City Hull City, Hull City vs Leicester City, sports new,s sports, football news, Football Leicester City lost to Hull City 2-1. (Source: Reuters)

Leicester City lost only three games in their title-winning campaign last season but their opening 2-1 defeat at Hull City on Saturday was a warning that life could be very different as champions rather than underdogs.

Their title triumph was built on a solid defence, an admirable team spirit, the industry of N’Golo Kante and the counter-attacking menace of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez while it also helped that they were underestimated by opponents.

Yet the defeat by Hull, as they became the first defending champions to lose their opening Premier League match, showed how things will be tougher this time around, particularly if Leicester’s key players can’t repeat last season’s heroics.

“This season will be harder than last,” manager Claudio Ranieri told Sky Sports. “Last season we showed ourselves as a very good team and we need to repeat that.”

Vardy, typically an unerring presence, missed two gilt-edged chances before Hull’s opener, as Leicester’s jittery defence were undone by Adama Diomande’s acrobatic overhead kick. Mahrez, meanwhile, was anonymous.

“We made a lot of effort today, but not as a team,” Ranieri added, “Today, we played individually.”

Kante’s combative presence was missed, while it was Hull who defended resolutely and harried the champions, an early indicator of how teams are unlikely to underestimate Leicester and will raise their game against the champions.

“We had to leave the onus with them,” said Hull captain Curtis Davies. “We’re playing against the champions, first game of the season, (and) had nothing to lose.”

“There’s a danger with Leicester that if you play high, they can hurt you behind,” added interim coach Mike Phelan.

“The delivery of the ball from their defence forward wasn’t the quality it was last season but we determined what was happening because we were on the front foot and we anticipated certain instances.”

Saturday’s defeat demonstrated how Leicester must negotiate the transition from underdogs to champions, and while they can’t be written off after last season’s astonishing campaign, Hull’s victory suggested a testing year ahead.

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