The Foxes arrive at the Community Shield having suffered two heavy pre-season defeats, and a similar scoreline at Wembley will cast doubts on their ability to defend their crown.
Leicester City are the team every club outside the established elite are looking to emulate. Runaway title winners against all the odds, their story is one that transcended sport back in the spring. But as Claudio Ranieri prepares to lead his side out at Wembley for the Community Shield, their clash with Manchester United represents a final opportunity to show they can compete with the big boys once again.
Their superb performances last term led to an invitation to the illustrious International Champions Cup, with organisers of the tournament keen to see the Foxes pit their wits against the best Europe has to offer before they make their Champions League bow in September. But having suffered heavy defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, questions have arisen as to whether they have what it takes to come close to emulating what they achieved in 2015-16.
Few are expecting quite the same level of performances – at least on a consistent basis – but Leicester will be expected not to fold and revert back to playing at the level expected of a team embarking on just their third Premier League campaign since promotion back to the top-flight. There is a feeling they can again push for the very least a place in Europe this season, and Sunday’s outing will likely provide the first opportunity to examine the validity of those predictions.
There is no doubt that the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford has given United that air of champions yet again, without the Red Devils having yet backed it up with competitive results, but it is Ranieri and his team of heroic underdogs that arrive as the true champions despite their performances in pre-season thus far having suggested otherwise.
It is, of course, easy to read far too much into friendly clashes, particularly with so many players still making their way back following their exertions at the Copa America and Euro 2016. But conceding four goals in successive matches is very un-Leicester, and a similarly porous display is unlikely to go down well.
The Community Shield, for all its build-up, remains the most glorified non-competitive match of them all, but it still holds far more weight in terms of bragging rights for supporters and analysis for those with no allegiance either way. Even the biggest football aficionados who refuse to read anything into any football that takes place before the closure of the transfer window can generally find a talking point.
And it is for that reason Leicester must finally turn up and prove their credentials ahead of a campaign where they still have the potential to shock once again. Ranieri has promised supporters his side is going out there to win, which for a man who continues to play down his side’s aims for the coming season is quite a statement of intent. Do that up against the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and those writing them off as one-season wonders will be forced to reconsider.
The fear is, however, that a repeat of previous showings will damage their belief more than any shellacking at the hands of a continental superpower. Leicester have shown they can do more than just live with the big boys before – now is the time to start proving that was no fluke.