After 541 days, West Ham United warmly welcome a capacity 60,000-strong crowd back to London Stadium for Monday's Premier League home opener with Leicester City!
With COVID restrictions lifted – but Premier League protocols remaining in place – a full stadium is expected, making for the first time the Irons have played in front of a full-strength Claret and Blue Army since the visit of Southampton on 29 February 2020.
Roared on by the best fans in the game, David Moyes' squad will be looking for a third straight Premier League win over Leicester, having done the double over the Foxes last season.
Both teams kicked-off 2021/22 with a win, with West Ham coming from behind twice to secure a 4-2 victory at Newcastle United and FA Cup holders Leicester holding off Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 at King Power Stadium.
Kick-off on Monday is at 8pm, with the match being broadcast live in the UK by Sky Sports from 7pm and across the world by the Premier League's international broadcast partners.
We will also be covering the game live with a blog on whufc.com and our Official App and across our social media channels, with goals, highlights and exclusive reaction to follow after the final whistle.
West Ham United has only one major injury concern, with Arthur Masuaku (knee) working his way back to full fitness.
Leicester City will be without centre-backs Wesley Fofana (broken leg), Jonny Evans (ankle/foot) and full-back James Justin (knee), but playmaker James Maddison (back), full-back Timothy Castagne (head), midfielder Nampalys Mendy (groin) and Ryan Bertrand (COVID) could all be available.
Taking the knee
As confirmed in a joint statement by English football's governing bodies, Premier League clubs will continue to take the knee before kick-off to protest against racism and discrimination.
The 20 Premier League clubs and players have resolved to work together against racism and all forms of discrimination. There is no place in football or society for any form of prejudice and while there have been strides made across our game, recent events have reminded us there is still much work to be done.
Taking the knee is an individual choice that many players wish to make as a way of peacefully demonstrating against racism and injustice. This gesture of unity is not new, and we do not view it as an alignment to any political organisation or ideology, but rather raising the awareness of this important issue. We ask that fans respect any player that wishes to take the knee and support them in their stance against discrimination.
While not all players will choose to express their opposition to discrimination through taking the knee, players, clubs and authorities are committed to work as a collective to address all prejudiced behaviour through the coming season and beyond.
The opposition – Leicester City
It should not be underestimated what an amazing Leicester City have been on over the previous decade or so.
Twelve summers ago, the Foxes were celebrating winning the League One title, with current West Ham United goalkeeper David Martin playing a big role in that success.
Five years later, in May 2014, after a series of near misses, Leicester added another piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet by romping to the Championship title with a club record 102 points.
Then, of course, came the most famous story of them all, as Claudio Ranieri guided an unfancied squad of 500/1 outsiders to Premier League glory in 2016.
Leicester reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals the following season and, after an understandable blip in league form following the sales of the likes of world-class players like Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté, have since established themselves as perennial challengers for European qualification.
A number of those who played central roles in that success remain, though, with Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy producing the goods on a consistent basis, season after season.
Under the leadership of the club’s respected Thai owners and manager Brendan Rodgers, the Foxes have recorded consecutive fifth-place Premier League finishes – although some critics might suggest they should have qualified for the Champions League on each occasion, only for late-season dips to see them miss out – and recruited a succession of exciting young players from home and abroad.
While some have since departed for huge transfer profits – Harry Maguire to Manchester United and Ben Chilwell to Chelsea – the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Wesley Fofana remain at King Power Stadium, and Leicester look primed for another sustained push for a top-four finish.
When you consider the clubs they are competing with directly, and the relative difference in revenue between the Foxes and teams like Chelsea, the two Manchester, Liverpool and north London clubs, to win the title, finish fifth twice and win the FA Cup in the space of six seasons is nothing short of miraculous.
To put it in the simplest possible terms, from the outside looking in, Leicester City appears to be a well-run football club, with a strategy and vision for where they want to get to, and how they are going to get there, on and off the pitch.
When the club’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was tragically killed following West Ham’s visit to King Power Stadium in October 2018, the outpouring of grief among the club’s staff, players and supporters was genuine and heartfelt.
The billionaire, who purchased Leicester in 2010, made a hugely positive impact on the club and the city, and his legacy remains in the shape of a forward-thinking club who this week announced plans to expand their home stadium to 40,000 seats, complete with a hotel, apartment block and an events and entertainment arena.
A second fairytale Premier League title may be beyond them, but Leicester City is a club that is undoubtedly here to stay.
As mentioned above, West Ham United did the Premier League double over Leicester City last season, winning 3-0 at King Power Stadium in September 2020 and 3-2 here at London Stadium in April.
Jarrod Bowen scored in both meetings, with Pablo Fornals and Michail Antonio also on target at King Power Stadium and Jesse Lingard hitting the net twice on home turf.
Overall, the two clubs have met 28 times in the Premier League, with West Ham holding the edge with 13 wins to nine, with six draws.
In all competitions, West Ham’s biggest-ever league win over Leicester came in the promotion-winning 1922/23 season. The Hammers thrashed the Foxes 6-0 at Filbert Street on their way to the First Division on 15 February 1923, with Billy Moore scoring a hat-trick, fellow England internationals Jimmy Ruffell and Jack Tresadern and Wales international Dick Richards also getting their names on the scoresheet. Leicester’s biggest win over West Ham came in the First Division on 15 September 1928, when the Foxes won 5-0 at Filbert Street.
As he begins his final season on home turf as a West Ham player, Club captain Mark Noble has faced Leicester 15 times as a West Ham player – ten in the Premier League, four in the Championship and once in the EFL Cup. The Club captain has scored two goals in those fixtures, including a memorable volley to secure a 2-0 win at King Power Stadium that kept the Irons in the Premier League in May 2018. Noble was also sent-off in a 1-1 draw at the same venue in November of the same year
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan
Born in Ashington, Northumberland in February 1985, Michael Oliver has been a member of the Select Group of Referees since August 2010, when he was just 25.
Oliver started refereeing in the Northern Premier League from 2003 to 2005 before quickly working his way up through the National League and EFL to reach the Premier League in January 2010.
The 36-year-old refereed the 2007 Conference National and 2009 League One Play-Off finals and controlled the 2016 EFL Cup final, 2018 FA Cup final and 2021 FA Cup final, which saw Leicester City overcome Manchester City 1-0 to win the trophy.
Oliver was appointed to the FIFA List in 2012 and has since refereed competitive and friendly international, UEFA Champions League and Europa League fixtures.
He has refereed West Ham United on 30 occasions, including the penultimate game at the Boleyn Ground against Swansea City in May 2016, and most-recently the Premier League wins at Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion at the tail-end of last season.
How can I follow the game?
The Club will also be covering the game live with a blog on whufc.com and our Official App and across our social media channels, with goals, highlights and exclusive reaction to follow after the final whistle.