The Premier League champions Leicester City – still feels like a fantasy doesn't it – will begin their title defence at newly-promoted Hull City on Saturday, the opening match of the new season. Claudio Ranieri made history last season with a scarcely-believable title run, but the biggest challenge for any team is to repeat that feat, and the first steps towards doing that will be taken at the KCOM Stadium.
Any opening match is a tricky one, but Leicester really could not have asked for a more straightforward encounter, considering the mess that Hull City find themselves in at the moment. They lost manager Steve Bruce midway through the summer, there are ownership issues, a potential takeover and major fan discontentment, and amidst all that, they have been barely able to do any summer recruitment, which, naturally, is essential if the Tigers have any plans of staying in the Premier League beyond this season.
"I'm just looking forward to the game," Mike Phelan, the caretaker manager, told reporters. "We've prepared well on the training ground and we've tried to keep things ticking over nicely. These players have earned the right to play in the Premier League.
"It's a small squad at the moment but small squads have worked together well in the past, although we know that we definitely need to make additions to it.
"The players that are here and fit and ready to play have earned the right to be in the Premier League. We're now going into what is arguably the best division in the world and we have to turn up and perform. I'm confident in what we've been doing on the training field in preparation and we just want to get started now."
Phelan has many injuries setbacks to deal with, with only 13 first team players available for selection at the moment, leaving Hull in the "favourites for relegation" section. But then, Leicester were very much in that department as well last season, with many bemoaning the fact that Ranieri had been installed as the new manager after Nigel Pearson was let go.
We all know what happened after that, so hope needs to keep springing eternal for Hull City, while Leicester will look for a second miracle in as many seasons. With all the "big" teams strengthening considerably, not many are tipping Leicester to finish in the top four let alone retain their title, and that "they have no chance" feeling will work quite well again for Ranieri, who himself has played down the Foxes' chances, saying there is more chance of ET landing in Piccadilly Circus than his team finishing top of the table again.
Team news: Hull City: Allan McGregor, Alex Bruce, Michael Dawson and Moses Odubajo are all long-term injury victims, while Harry Maguire will miss the Premier League opener with an ankle problem. Greg Luer and Shaun Maloney, however, will be in the squad after recovering from minor knocks.
Leicester City: The man mountain that is Robert Huth will miss the first match of the season due to suspension, but there are no injury worries for the champions. Ranieri will, again, bank on Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy to deliver the goals for Leicester City.
Where to Watch Live
Hull City vs Leicester City will kickoff at 12.30 p.m. local time (5 p.m. IST). Live TV coverage and live streaming information is below.
India: TV: Star Sports 4 and Star Sports Select HD1. Live Streaming: Hotstar.
UK: TV: Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports HD1. Live Sreaming: Watch Sky Sports.
USA: TV: CNBC and NBC Universo. Live Streaming: NBC Sports Live.
Australia: TV: SBS One and Optus Sport. Live Streaming: Optus Online.
Canada: TV: TSN5. Live Streaming: TSN TV.
China: TV: LeTV, PPTV and QQ Sports.
Singapore: TV: 102mio.
Malaysia: TV: Astro SuperSport.
Middle East and Thailand: TV: Bein Sports. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
South Africa: TV: SuperSport3. Live Streaming: SuperSport Live.