Following respective victories on the opening day of the 2021-22 Premier League season, Champions League hopefuls West Ham United and Leicester City prepare for battle at the London Stadium on Monday night (9:00PM, 23 Aug).
David Moyes's men claimed a thrilling 4-2 victory over Newcastle United on the opening weekend, while the Foxes edged past Wolverhampton Wanderers by a goal to nil.
West Ham's old nemesis Callum Wilson took just five minutes of the new season to strike against the Hammers after the trickery of Allan Saint-Maximin proved too difficult for Moyes's side to deal with, and while Aaron Cresswell's unorthodox goal levelled proceedings, Newcastle went into the break with a 2-1 lead thanks to Jacob Murphy's own header.
However, a Michail Antonio-inspired second half saw West Ham hit back three times without reply, as the Hammers' only recognised striker set up Said Benrahma's equaliser and powered in his side's fourth of the day either side of missing a penalty - where Tomas Soucek was unsurprisingly on hand to tap home the rebound.
The Hammers may not have been able to sustain a charge for Champions League football last term, but they have already risen into the top four and will aspire to remain above that dotted line for the next 37 gameweeks - however challenging that may be.
West Ham produced the goods at the London Stadium more often than not last season and were only behind Manchester City regarding home form, but they did suffer two defeats without scoring in their final three home games before downing Southampton 3-0 on the final weekend.
The highly-anticipated return of the bubble-blowing crowd ought to see West Ham improve their capital fortunes even more, and the London Stadium doors have opened at just the right time, as Moyes's side have suffered three successive defeats in their first home game of the season.
With two up-and-coming players in Patson Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho hoping to have the torch passed down to them, 34-year-old Jamie Vardy continues to prove his worth to Leicester and netted the only goal of the game in a 1-0 success against Wolves last weekend.
After Ricardo Pereira managed to weave his way past two Wolves defenders, Vardy made a darting run towards the near post and expertly flicked the ball over Jose Sa with the outside of his left boot before a trademark wind-up celebration in the form of a wolf's howl.
Leicester's victory in front of the King Power faithful came one week after they lifted the Community Shield by sinking Manchester City - albeit a weakened one - during another memorable outing on the Wembley turf, but the big question on the Foxes fans' lips is whether their side can finally return to the promised land of the Champions League.
Two end-of-season collapses laid those hopes to rest in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, but as ever, Leicester have brought in an astute array of signings as they gear up for their first away game of the new season, although only one of their final four on the road last term ended in victory.
That run included a 3-2 defeat at the London Stadium on April 11, although Brendan Rodgers's side did threaten a comeback after going 3-0 down on the day, and that result completed a double for the Hammers following their surprise 3-0 win at the King Power during the autumn.
West Ham's medical bay only has one occupant at the moment in the form of Arthur Masuaku, who is still struggling to shake off a niggling knee injury, but Moyes's squad are otherwise fit and raring to go.
Lukasz Fabianski remains in possession of the gloves despite the arrival of Alphonse Areola, and the former Arsenal man ought to keep his place despite shipping two goals on the opening day.
With transfer activity still quiet at the London Stadium, an unchanged lineup should be fielded against the Foxes, and another goal for Antonio would see him overtake Paulo di Canio and become West Ham's all-time leading Premier League goalscorer.
Rodgers has confirmed that James Maddison and Timothy Castagne are both available - with the latter recovering from the facial injuries he sustained at Euro 2020 - but Wesley Fofana, James Justin, Jonny Evans and Nampalys Mendy are still injured for the visitors.
Castagne's return is timely after Ryan Bertrand returned a positive coronavirus test before the encounter with Wolves, but Luke Thomas will not relinquish his place without a fight, while new signing Jannik Vestergaard is expected to be handed his full debut in place of Daniel Amartey.
Iheanacho is knocking on the door for a recall and boasts three goals from his last four appearances against West Ham, but Rodgers is not expected to demote the ageless Vardy to the bench.
West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma; Antonio
Leicester City possible starting lineup:
Schmeichel; Pereira, Vestergaard, Soyuncu, Castagne; Ndidi, Tielemans; Perez, Maddison, Barnes; Vardy
In what should be a pulsating game for the neutrals with Vardy and Antonio seeking to pick up where they left off on matchday one, expect goals galore in the capital between two sides aiming to make an early statement of intent.
The Foxes have recruited well once again and remain in Maddison's capable creative hands despite persistent links with Arsenal, and we think Rodgers's side will just edge a five-goal thriller to avenge their back-to-back defeats from the 2020-21 season.
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