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Everton-Leicester City Preview

AP - Sports

A baptism of fire awaits Leicester City as they return to the top flight of English football for the first time in 11 years.

Leicester's first five matches of the season are against Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Stoke and Manchester United, meaning that the runaway winners of the 2013/2014 Championship have to hit the ground running on Saturday at home against Everton at the King Power Stadium if they are to avoid slipping to the wrong end of the table within the first two months of the campaign.

However, last season suggested that the Foxes may well have enough to trouble the Premier League's elite. 102 points saw them claim the Championship title with ease under the guidance of manager Nigel Pearson, and the Leicester boss has acted quickly and decisively in the summer transfer window to bring in the likes of Matthew Upson and Marc Albrighton on free transfers to add some Premier League experience to the squad.

The signing of striker Leonardo Ulloa for eight million pounds broke the club's transfer record, but plenty will still be expected from last season's goal-scoring hero David Nugent, who feels he has a point to prove at the highest level.

"It didn't happen for me at Portsmouth, maybe it wasn't the right club for me," said Nugent, looking back at his last spell in the top tier. "But everybody makes mistakes in life and I'm fitter, stronger, older, wiser and I'm ready for the Premier League this season.

"I have unfinished business. I think people still believe I'm not good enough, but I'm going to prove them wrong."

The first test for Leicester will come against an Everton team who are looking to build on an impressive fifth-place finish last season. Roberto Martinez's side played clever, attacking football in the last campaign, and have built on that by bringing in Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku on permanent deals - the latter in a club record deal of 28 million pounds - and adding lightning pace to their attack through the loan signing of Christian Atsu.

Just as important as those signings is the fact that Everton have kept Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley on long contracts at the club. With Manchester United likely to be stronger than last season and Tottenham Hotspur starting the new campaign with a more professional managerial set-up, Everton will know that they have a fight on their hands to continue their upward trajectory, but Martinez is happy with the players he has at his disposal.

"In terms of the squad that we have, I'm delighted with what we achieved and the continuity that we have got," said the Spaniard. "That will allow us to carry on working on what we did last season.

"In terms of being desperate to bring someone in, the answer is no, we're not. But we are going to use now until the window closes to see how strong the squad is and if there is anything we need to help the players we have here."

Everton's total of 72 points last season was their highest in the Premier League era and their best since winning the league in 1987. Martinez's side managed 61 goals in 38 games - their best effort for 18 seasons - and kept 15 clean sheets for a defensive record that only Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City bettered.

Neither of these teams have major injury problems, although Albrighton (groin) and Upson (ankle) are likely to have to wait to make their Leicester debuts, and Coleman (hamstring) is a doubt for the Toffees.

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