Leicester's rivals spending heavily
The multi-million dollar new additions by Leicester's main rivals will make it tough for the champions
Claudio Ranieri simply does not believe the hype - and why would he?
The genial Italian masterminded the greatest EPL story ever told last season in the face of sneering, nay-saying and the arrogance of the league's old order.
Some 12 years since he was deposed by Chelsea, his "Tinkerman" reputation was belatedly shorn with the statistic that he used fewer players than any other manager in the English top flight.
He transformed Leicester City from non-believers into champions by retaining their core principles and coupling them with a renewed self-belief as well as an appreciation for the lighter side of life.
Players were afforded a minimum of two days off per week to cope with the demands of the EPL while pizza parties became a staple of their sauntered route to the pinnacle as reward for a defence that became as tightened as their potential waistbands.
It was a management style that lent itself to the days when the game's top flight was indebted to a social culture far more than the EPL's current fitness-conscious isolationism.
Always with a smile, Ranieri retained his pessimism of Leicester's title hopes until the very last; conceding just 10 days before Tottenham's draw at Chelsea confirmed their coronation.
He remains under no illusions of the task that lies ahead for Leicester; with the left-field element replaced by one of expectancy as the reigning champions.
That in itself, coupled with the retention of the majority of his title-winning crop, bodes well that the Foxes may again live up to their cunning nickname, albeit to a lesser extent.
1 Jamie Vardy, 29, striker
Cynics will argue that Vardy had 100,000 reasons to turn down Arsenal's overtures, but it is loyalty rather than finances which motivate the England striker.
It would have been easy for him to continue a remarkable career trajectory with a lucrative move to the Emirates Stadium; yet he opted for the comforts of the King Power.
A poacher's instinct in last weekend's Community Shield defeat by Manchester United suggests that even a miserable summer at Euro 2016 has done little to dampen the raw attributes that helped transform Vardy into a history-maker in last season's EPL.
2 Riyad Mahrez, 25, winger
Another player on Arsene Wenger's shopping list, where the current PFA Player of the Year will reside beyond the close of the transfer window on Aug 31 remains the great unknown.
Personally involved in 28 of Leicester's goals last season, both scoring and assisting, his pace and creativity were invaluable assets for Ranieri's side in their title push.
Equally crucial as Vardy, if not more, the champions face an anxious fortnight with the EPL's chasing pack continuing to lurk with intent.
3 Nampalys Mendy, 24, midfielder
If replacing a player as influential as N'Golo Kante was not already challenging enough for Mendy, Ranieri's admission that the France international had performed the role of two players last season has further cranked that pressure.
He does not grab the headlines as much as his predecessor's all-action performances did, but excelling in simplicity rather than spectacular is what defines the 24-year-old's game.
Reuniting with his former Monaco manager will afford Leicester a more measured reading of the game from midfield rather than the relentless tackling approach of his predecessor, now at Chelsea.
Leicester's fairy-tale triumph may never be repeated again in an EPL now awash with unprecedented riches.
But it is more than money which threatens to put paid to their title defence. Those that fell behind the current champions have replenished to ensure they won't be fooled again.
Ranieri has also invested heavily even by his and Leicester's modest standards, breaking the club's transfer record with a £15 million ($26.2m) capture of Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow to supplement their current embarrassment of attacking riches.
Astute business remains a staple of the Foxes' business with Bartosz Kaputska, a star of Poland's Euro 2016 campaign, and Sporting Gijon defender Luis Hernandez both arriving on free transfers while Nampalys Mendy represents a modest replacement for N'Golo Kante.
Fears of a mass exodus have been minimal with only Kante's sale to Chelsea, to date, the singular attempt to break up the title-winning class. The prospect of losing the likes of Mahrez - undeniably one of last season's standout performers - continues to linger.
Should they retain the Algerian, Leicester will be primed to put up a fight in their title defence far more than their bruising pre-season campaign had previously suggested.
Four-goal punishments by Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, coupled with a Community Shield defeat by Man United, should serve as ample wake-up call for the champions of what will be expected of them in a maiden Champions League campaign.
That foray into Europe's elite club competition may prove an unwelcome distraction in efforts to retain their domestic crown. Yet, the togetherness that characterised Leicester's unlikely success will remain an invaluable asset in the weeks and months to come.
LEICESTER: KEY INS AND OUTS
- Nampalys Mendy (from Nice, £10m)
- Ahmed Musa (from CSKA Moscow, £15m)
- Ron-Robert Zieler (from Hannover 96, £2.6m)
- Luis Hernandez (from Sporting Gijon, free transfer)
- Bartosz Kaputska (from KS Cracovia, free transfer)
- N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, £30m)
- Mark Schwarzer (released)
- Paul Konchesky (released)
Better chance of ET coming to London
HULL v LEICESTER
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 103 - Eleven Plus & StarHub TV Ch 228)
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri believes it is more likely that aliens will land in London than the Foxes defending their Premier League title.
The Italian expects Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City to mount strong challenges after they all faltered last season.
Leicester go to Hull today to start the defence of the shock league crown they won last season by a runaway 10 points, after they were 5,000-1 to win it at the beginning of the campaign.
But Ranieri, who signed a new contract until 2020 on Wednesday, has already dismissed their chances of retaining the title and believes extraterrestrials arriving in the capital are more likely.
"It's easier for ET to come to Piccadilly Circus," he said. "I work to be safe and continue to build a team, anything more that happens is fantastic.
"It is normal that we can't win the league. I think the bookmakers have to make it 6,000 now.
"It is impossible. It is more difficult than last season.
"Of course they (Leicester's title rivals) are stronger because they can't make a mistake another year.
"They lost one season and in the life of those big teams that can happen but, altogether, it only happens once in a lifetime.
"I am very curious, all the world is curious, what will happen with Leicester. I am very curious to see where we finish.
"Of course the big teams are ready to fight for the title, we are ready to defend our title but we know it is a difficult gap. Last season we made something unbelievable.
"But now the big teams will come back, I am sure."
Ranieri has a fully fit squad ahead of the trip to the KC Stadium and reiterated his belief that last season's PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, 25, is available for selection and will stay with the Foxes despite being continually linked with a move to Arsenal.
"I don't know, who is interested? Tell me if there is one," he said.
"Riyad will stay with us. Never has Riyad come to me and said: 'Coach, I want to go' because I'll kill him before he tells me this! He's a lucky man."
Words so typical of Ranieri - a man so endeared by his players. - PA Sport.