Dennis Praet Must Start for Leicester Over James Maddison in Tough Man City Game

Going into the season, there was more than a fair share of pessimism to go around the Leicester City fanbase.

The embarrassing capitulation at the end of the 2019/2020 was still fresh in everyone's mind and the club had been extremely quiet on the recruitment front. Then there was the selection crisis.

A combination of injuries and suspensions left the Foxes with just one available centre-back for their opening game against West Brom, meaning Wilfred Ndidi was shoehorned into the heart of the defence alongside Caglar Soyuncu.

At the other end of the pitch, things looked similarly bleak with creative fulcrum James Maddison also not fully fit. Despite all this, Leicester won their opening two Premier League games at a canter, besting newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion 3-0, before defeating Burnley 4-2 seven days later. They even finished the gameweek at the top of the table.

Quite rightly, Timothy Castagne - the Foxes' flying new full-back - has been singled out for special praise for his performance in each game, while Harvey Barnes has also attracted column inches.

One player who has slipped slightly under the radar is Dennis Praet. A standout performer in both victories, it seems like the Belgian is finally finding his feet after a stop-start first season at the King Power Stadium. Barring a colossal brain fart by Rodgers, Praet fully deserves to keep his place in the team against Manchester City on Sunday - even with Maddison creeping back to full fitness.

Last campaign, the former Sampdoria man made 27 league appearances, the majority of which came from the bench. It wasn't just the lack of starts that impeded Praet's development. In most of the games he played he was asked to play a more conservative midfield role than he is used to.

In Sampdoria's midfield three, he was afforded significant licence to roam forward and while he still experienced a bit of that in his first season at Leicester, he was far more likely to sit back and allow Maddison and Youri Tielemans to step up in support of Jamie Vardy.

This season, things have been different. With Maddison restricted to fitness-building, cameo appearances from the bench, Praet has pushed on and become Rodgers' most potent advanced midfielder.

Registering a goal and an assist so far, the Belgian will surely go on to better last season's output of three direct goal involvements. Both of his contributions were sublime as well.

Against the Baggies, Praet laid the ball off to James Justin before surging into the box, receiving the ball back and then floating a delicious cross straight onto the head of his compatriot Castagne who nodded the Foxes in front.

The assist neatly encapsulated Praet's change in role this season with the 26-year-old being given far more licence to push forward and disrupt the opposition. The ball itself really was something special. Compelling evidence of Praet's superb passing ability.

The following weekend against Sean Dyche's Clarets he did something even better. Latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the Burnley boss, he shimmied into some space and unleashed a rocket which gave Nick Pope absolutely no chance.

Praet's start to the season has been mightily encouraging. His emergence as a genuine, creative alternative to Maddison could prove invaluable to the Foxes this season - particularly with Rodgers' side set to compete on multiple fronts.

More than that though, Praet's great performances have also laid a marker down. On current form, Maddison will not be walking straight back into the team when he is fully fit which should inspire him to reach even greater heights.

Against City, Praet will face his biggest challenge of his Leicester career so far. Another impressive performance against the Premier League's most devastating midfield and he will solidify his position as an automatic starter for the Foxes.

Source : 90min