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Lacazette to make Prem debut

Five Aside
Read
 By Ben Jacobs

Leicester pass champions tag to Chelsea as fairytale journey closes

A year on from their remarkable title success, Leicester's trophy passes over to Chelsea this Sunday.

The final home match of this campaign will be bittersweet for Leicester City. The Foxes will officially surrender their 2015-2016 title, and this season's shirts with the Premier League champions badge on them will fast become collectors' items.

However, there is no real doom or gloom because Leicester never really expected to defend their title, so can take considerable comfort in mid-table mediocrity, also knowing they went on a Champions League adventure that will live long in the memory.

The fact Claudio Ranieri wasn't kept on out of sentiment proves the Foxes haven't been guilty of living in the past. The club's ambitious owners made the cutthroat decision to replace the affable Italian with Craig Shakespeare and have been rewarded with 22 points since making the change -- good enough for sixth place if the table started in April.

The players, meanwhile, haven't been interested in talking about last season's heroics for quite some time. Kasper Schmeichel made that point after what he dubbed an "embarrassing" 4-1 loss to Manchester United in September.

On paper, the Foxes have mustered the worst-ever Premier League title defence, yet their average Premier League total is 39 points, a tally they have already surpassed. A win over Bournemouth can now secure a top-half finish -- something Martin O'Neill became a legend for achieving during the club's so-called glory years in the late 90s.

Before a ball was kicked, no one expected Leicester to be held to the standards of a Premier League champion, but once form declined, their plight was arguably blown out of proportion simply because of the gold badge on their shirts.

A top-half finish and a European run is a superb season for Leicester, and that's why Shakespeare should be offered a new deal, even if for only one year. Whether he gets one will depend on whether the board believes he has the pull to bring in significant signings this summer, as well as hang on to Schmeichel, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.

There is certainly a danger that the high of a title coupled with the prospect of Champions League football kept the squad together last season. One or two players could wish to cash in on that experience and move to pastures new over the summer.

As a result, Leicester may not only be surrendering their Premier League title, but ending an era. This may happen even if the core squad do stay together. After all, captain Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs and Vardy are getting a little long in the tooth, so there is pressure on the likes of Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell to establish themselves as regular starters. City also need to swoop for a young striker, even if he doesn't start every week.

The FC crew discuss Kasper Schmeichel's links with Manchester United.

There is some talk the club want Sunderland's Jermain Defoe, a Leicester target since the days of Nigel Pearson. Yet City must build for the future rather than trying to land in-form veterans. Laying foundations and adding depth are the two key objectives this summer. That's the best way of preventing a relegation battle. It's what Shakespeare or his replacement must strive for this summer, and if successful, the Foxes could become genuine European contenders.

Bournemouth is the last chance to come out the tunnel as reigning champions, but it's also a vital game to make sure the season doesn't end with three straight defeats. That won't help Shakespeare's long-term chances of getting a new deal and will also make one of the lingering memories over the summer the 6-1 drubbing by Tottenham in the Foxes' penultimate game.

A loss to Bournemouth could even remind Leicester's owners of what a superb job Eddie Howe has done and perhaps persuade them to plunge for a promising manager with more experience than Shakespeare in the dugout. Leeds United boss Garry Monk is another name who falls into this category.

Leicester's time as champions was always likely to only last for a season, but it will still be sad to officially surrender the mantle of champions and watch Chelsea lift the trophy.

There is no doubt the Foxes have taken great strides forwards over the past two seasons. The task now is to continue progressing in order to prove the fairytale title was no fluke, and even if it never happens again, try to at least bridge the gap between themselves and the Premier League's big boys.

Ben Jacobs is ESPN FC's Leicester City blogger. Follow him on Twitter @JacobsBen.

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