Leicester maestro leads in Premier League’s pre-season fab five

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With Euro 2016 spiriting away plenty of the Premier League’s elite stars during June and July, and no fewer than seven new managers taking over top-flight teams ahead of the coming campaign, pre-season was the ideal time to make an impression.

Going by their friendly appearance record this summer, the five guys below clearly managed as much:

Riyad Mahrez – 362/450 minutes for Leicester

It will be interesting to see how Mahrez goes against Hull this weekend, following reports that the 2015/16 Premier League Player of the Year is increasingly unsettled at the King Power Stadium after turning down a new contract earlier this summer.

He didn’t exactly shine in the 2-1 Community Shield loss to Manchester United, but you can’t fault the Moroccan’s pre-season work rate, with Mahrez starting all five of Leicester’s practice matches, scoring once.

He’s 6/1 to bag the opener against the Tigers.

Antonio Valencia – 367/450 minutes for Manchester United

Avid pre-season viewers will have been unmoved by Jose Mourinho’s decision to start Valencia at right-back in the Community Shield, leaving Italy international Matteo Darmian out of the squad altogether, as the Special One clearly rates the Ecuadorian.

Nominally a winger, Valencia faces a battle to keep young Dutchman Timothy Fosu-Mensah, a firm fans’ favourite at Old Trafford following some impressive performances last season, out of the United XI long term, but he may have already seen off Darmian.

Sam Clucas – 625/720 minutes for Hull

This much-travelled 25-year-old has racked up more friendly minutes than any other player at a top-flight team since mid-May, having played a part in 44 of his side’s 46 Championship fixtures last term, starting 39 times.

Midfielder Clucas, a Conference Premier player with Hereford just three years ago, will be hoping to keep his place and land a top-flight debut for the visit of champions Leicester.

Etienne Capoue – 456/540 minutes for Watford

The former Tottenham full-back not only started every pre-season fixture under new Watford coach Walter Mazzarri, he even popped up with a couple of goals.

Capoue is 6/1 to score at any time during the Hornets’ opening-day fixture at Southampton with Ladbrokes, which looks cracking value.

Willian – 414/540 minutes for Chelsea

Another ever-present pre-season starter, although one assist from the Brazilian’s six summer fixtures hardly sets the world alight.

That shouldn’t worry Blues boss Antonio Conte too much, with the winger-loving Italian surely planning on pitching one of Chelsea’s most consistent performers straight into the Premier League 2016/17 action at home to West Ham.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Iain Houten

Iain has been contributing pieces to various websites on an array of subjects, including sports, politics and art, for over four years. Despite blue being his favourite colour, the teams he supports all wear red.