14 August 2014 18:01
Nigel Pearson is confident Leicester City will be competitive in the Premier League as they start with a tricky test at home to Everton.
Pearson led Leicester to the Championship title last season, lifting the club into the top flight for the first time since 2004.
In that 10-year period, Leicester slipped as low as League One in 2008, but Pearson oversaw immediate promotion to the Championship.
After a brief stint at Hull City, the 50-year-old returned to the King Power Stadium in November 2011 and further cemented his place in Leicester’s history by ensuring their Premier League return.
Pearson has added striker Leonardo Ulloa to his ranks in a reported £7million deal ahead of the new campaign, while the likes of winger Marc Albrighton and goalkeeper Ben Hamer have also been brought in.
Leicester start life back in the top tier by hosting Everton on Saturday and, despite the obvious step up in quality, Pearson has no doubts that his team are strong enough to hold their own in the Premier League.
“Last season was a great success, but it is in the past,” he said at his pre-match news conference.
“I’m very proud, but it’s about moving on and being a success in the Premier League.
“Our biggest strength is our group ethic. Alone, that’s not enough, but we have a lot of quality in our side too.”
Another of Leicester’s close-season signings, Matthew Upson, is ruled out with a foot injury, while Anthony Knockaert (ankle) will also sit out.
Striker Jamie Vardy (thigh) is unlikely to be available, but Albrighton (groin) will hope to feature.
In Everton, Leicester face a side that showed their continued ambition in the close-season by shelling out a club-record fee of £28 million for Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgium international impressed on loan at Goodison Park last term, scoring 15 goals in 31 Premier League appearances.
Lukaku is sure to be key to Everton’s hopes again this season, as they attempt to break into the UEFA Champions League after a fifth-placed finish last term ensured Europa League football.
Manager Roberto Martinez has also strengthened his squad by adding Gareth Barry – another former loanee – and Muhamed Besic, while Christian Atsu joined on a season-long loan from Chelsea this week.
Perhaps more important for the Merseyside club was completing long-term deals for Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman and John Stones.
Speaking on the club’s transfer business, Martinez said: “I have been very, very happy with the signings we have made.
“We have brought the right characters to the squad. We have a real good mixture between experienced footballers and characters and talented young players.”
Martinez will make a late check on full-back Coleman (hamstring), while Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas may not be fit enough to feature as they returned late to training following their involvement with Belgium at the World Cup.
Bryan Oviedo (leg) and Arouna Kone (knee) are still recovering from long-term injuries.