Claudio Ranieri is adamant that his Leicester City side will not experience a Chelsea-like collapse in the defense of its Premier League title this season. Leicester defied the odds to pull off the most remarkable title triumph in Premier League history last term. But many have suggested that it could struggle to even come close to replicating that success this term, particularly with the added demands of Champions League games and having lost key midfielder N'Golo Kante to Chelsea.
It was Chelsea that provided a startling example last season of how quickly a team can fall from being top of the pile. In the first half of the campaign the London side was struggling near the foot of the table, a run of form that cost Jose Mourinho his job.
Leicester will now come face-to-face with Mourinho at Wembley on Sunday, as the Midlands side takes on the Portuguese's new side Manchester United in the traditional season curtain-raiser, the Community Shield. And Ranieri believes his work will ensure that the demise of Chelsea under Mourinho is not repeated at his club.
"When I build something, it is never destroyed," he said ahead of the Community Shield. "My philosophy is to watch your house, not other houses. It's important what happens here. My house is very clean and very clear.
"Slowly, we try to build the first floor and the second floor. The foundation is very solid. I don't know what happened [to Chelsea]. They were the champions."
Ranieri will be eager for an improved performance on what Leicester produced in its last two preseason outings. Eight goals were conceded in defeats against European giants Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.
Preparations for the new season have not been all smooth sailing either for Manchester United. A tour of China was far from ideal, with a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund being followed by a scheduled clash with Manchester City being cancelled due to a unplayable pitch in Beijing.
Mourinho is also still waiting for the arrival of Paul Pogba. Having got three of the transfers he wanted early on in the summer with the capture of defender Eric Bailly, attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho said that he is still confident that a “very good midfielder” will join before the season starts.
And, while hitting out at comments from other managers that the proposed fee for Pogba of 100 million pounds ($131 million) is outlandish, Mourinho stated that he is happy with the way his new club has gone about its business this summer.
“I think our market has been good,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “We decided to bring four players and not 10. We decided to bring in players that are Manchester United level. We decide to bring four that we think can really improve the squad and not just be one more player. This is the profile of our market.
“We got a young central defender that needs time to be a top one, but he has top potential and we believe a lot in him. We brought Micki [Mkhitaryan] here, a player whose quality we know. We got a super striker and we are going to get a very good midfield player. So I am happy with the balance of my squad, I’m happy with the effort that the club has and is still putting in for us.”
The Community Shield, the annual meeting between the Premier League champions and the FA Cup winners, is certainly not be the most important piece of silverware either club will go for this season. Yet one of United's new signings is determined not to pass up an early chance for a trophy.
“One game, one trophy,” Ibrahimovic, who has won silverware with six different clubs, told MUTV. “I’m used to winning trophies. I didn’t come here to waste time.
"That is the first trophy game and that is the first trophy we will bring home. For me, every trophy is very serious. I have collected 30 trophies and I want to collect more of them. I’m not satisfied until I collect everything. That’s what we play for. I play to win.”
Ibrahimovic is likely to lead United's attack against Leicester, supported by captain Wayne Rooney. And, with Chris Smalling and Tim Fosu-Mesah recovered from knocks that kept them out of a goalless draw against Everton in Rooney's testimonial on Wednesday, Mourinho has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Leicester also go into the game without any injury worries and Ranieri is likely to field his strongest lineup having declared that the match “Is not a friendly.”