Wembley plays host to the annual season curtain raiser, the Community Shield, on Sunday as Premier League champions Manchester City take on rivals Liverpool.
City were pushed all the way in the title race by Jurgen Klopp’s men last season, but a sublime 14-game winning streak saw Pep Guardiola’s side end the season as champions for a second straight campaign. Liverpool, meanwhile, won the Champions League for a sixth time in Madrid last month to ensure their season did not go without silverware.
To Win (90 min)
Man City 21/20
When it comes to pre-season, almost everyone will say that results aren’t all that important and there’s definitely truth in that. It’s mostly about gaining fitness and learning new tactics. You don’t get points for winning games. However, winning does give you confidence going into your next game and the longer you fail to win a match, it damages your confidence.
Liverpool’s pre-season form will definitely be seen as a bit of a worry as they’re winless in their last four friendlies. They lost back-to-back matches against Borussia Dortmund (2-3) and Sevilla (1-2), drew with Sporting Lisbon (2-2), before suffering a heavy 3-0 defeat against Napoli last Sunday.
It’s clear they missed their deadly trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino against the Italian club, but still started Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson in defence – the same back four that boasted the best defensive record in Europe’s top five leagues last season.
And Klopp fears that the Premier League champions will teach Liverpool a lesson on Sunday if the level of defending displayed in pre-season does not improve.
The German tactician said: “We have to make sure we defend in a pretty good way because if you don’t defend well against City we could get a proper knock, and that’s not the idea of the game.”
Without many of their top attackers, Klopp has given some of the young players an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in his first-team plans with Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster receiving regular minutes – the duo getting on the scoresheet in the 3-2 defeat against Dortmund.
The likes of Alisson, Salah and Firmino have returned to training at the beginning of the week, but the key trio may not be match-ready.
Manchester City head into Sunday’s showdown on the back of three wins in four pre-season games with Guardiola’s side recording victories over West Ham (4-1), Kitchee (1-6) and Yokohama (1-3) during their tour of China, Hong Kong and Japan.
City have been priced up as favourites to retain the Community Shield, but Guardiola will be missing several crucial players, while Liverpool are expected to be near full strength. City’s Brazilian stars Ederson, Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho won the Copa America and have missed the entirety of pre-season so will unlikely be match fit for Sunday.
The same applies to Argentines Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi who managed to grab the bronze medal, and Riyad Mahrez, who won the AFCON with Algeria. French left-back Benjamin Mendy is confirmed to be out for the fixture as he continues his rehabilitation from knee surgery that kept him out for the majority of last season.
But although City are missing several key players, they have enough depth and quality with new arrivals Rodri and Angelino, as well as their reliable stars David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling.
Probable line ups:
Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Milner; Wijnaldum Oxlade-Chamberlain, Origi.
Man City: 4-3-3
Bravo; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, de Bruyne, Silva; Bernardo, Sterling, Sane.
Prediction: Manchester City (21/20)
In recent seasons the Community Shield has been made to be nothing more than a glorified pre-season friendly that raises the curtain on the English domestic season at Wembley. But with the rivalry between the two clubs continuing to grow, we could be in for a passionate and fiercely competitive clash. My money will be on the Premier League champions.
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