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Premier League (EPL) Preview; West Ham United FC and Leicester City FC

Premier League (EPL) Preview; West Ham United FC and Leicester City FC
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Both clubs enjoyed very successful campaigns last season. Can either of them go one better and push for a Champions league spot this season?

West Ham United FC

West Ham finished the 2020/21 season in 6th place. They were only 2 points away from a Champions League place, finishing, as they did, just 1 point away from Leicester and 2 from Chelsea, who assured qualification by finishing in 4th position. West Ham finished the 2020/21 season with their highest top-flight points tally in 35 years. Therefore, they may find that this season is a tough act to follow. However, The Hammers did of course qualify for the Europa League (UEL).

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The 27th of August is a date penciled in the calendar of every West Ham fan. On that Friday afternoon next month, the Europa League group-stage draw is made, and fans are excited at the possibility of who they might face. 

You would have to go back to 1999 for the last time West Ham competed in Europe, winning the now-defunct Intertoto Cup under Harry Redknapp. The Hammers crashed out of qualifying rounds in 2015/16 and 2016/17 under Slaven Bilic, as well as in 2006/07 when they had Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

However, momentum and belief have shifted in East London under David Moyes, who inspired West Ham in the Premier League last season, and is now preparing his team for a UEL adventure in 2021/22, with the likes of Napoli, Lazio, Lyon, and Marseille all in the draw for the UEL.

So aside from the excitement of competing in Europe after such a long time languishing in the mid to lower section of the EPL, what can we expect from Moyes’ team this season? Moyes has made some smart acquisitions and barring injury or any other kind of disaster, one could reasonably expect them to also do well this season.

Players to watch

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If West Ham can hold on to Declan Rice it would be a massive coup for the club. Once regarded as something of a lateral pass merchant; a poor man’s Sergio Busquets, it is now clear that he is nothing of the sort. England’s run to the final of this year’s European Championships proved this and now Moyes must do everything in his power to retain the influential defensive midfielder. As of 2021, Rice is now vice-captain of The Hammers. This is a role that he will no doubt relish, along with the game time he will get if he remains at the club.

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Another player to watch out for is the highly versatile 31-year-old Michail Antonio. During his career, he has played as a striker, a winger, and even in the defence. The player himself states that his favoured position is on the wing, but Antonio netted 10 times last season, which was a personal record and one gets the impression that he will be needed up front for West Ham in the forthcoming season.

Leicester City FC

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Once again the Foxes missed out on The Champions League last year despite holding a significant cushion at various points in the season.

That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Leicester actually ended up racking up 4 more points last term and achieved some great results along the way. That 5-2 victory against Manchester City at the Etihad in September will be remembered for a long time, as will wins over Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester United. This means the Foxes defeated all of the six ‘Super League’ clubs last season. They also won the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

They managed some of these results while in the middle of a horrific injury crisis. Apart from Youri Tielemans and Marc Albrighton every senior outfield player spent time injured last season. Some of these injuries were really badly timed as well.

James Justin and Harvey Barnes were both ruled out for the season just as they were being discussed as candidates for England’s Euro 2020 squad. Meanwhile, defensive talisman Jonny Evans missed much of the Premier League run-in.

In this context, Leicester making the top six with ease is more impressive. Then again, this does not make season ruining defeats to Fulham and Newcastle any easier to accept. This season manager Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to finally take The Foxes into the Champions League.

Players to watch

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As always with Leicester, look out for Jamie Vardy this season. Now a veteran with The Foxes, the striker has now made 245 appearances for the club. During this time he has netted 118 times and provided 38 assists.

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Another to watch is Belgian attacking midfielder Youri Tielemans. Noted for his pace, shot power, and pace, he will no doubt be hoping to supply Vardy and surely to add a few goals of his own!

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