78 days after Manchester City last played a competitive fixture, Pep Guardiola’s men are finally back in action on Sunday when they take on closest rivals Liverpool in the Community Shield. For some fans, it may not feel like a long time, but it’s enough of a gap to very nearly make it around the whole planet on public transport with a French valet. Football – real football – is almost back.
After a solid preseason, in which the blues scored 13 and conceded just three in four games, the squad is back in Manchester to contest once again for five trophies this season. Pep Guardiola will be looking to some of the stand-outs from the summer tour, namely Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Leroy Sané and Rodri to inspire his side to victory. The likes of Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and other Copa America participants will only recently have returned to training, and may not be deemed sharp enough to start against such a strong team.
Other players likely to play a part in the game include young first-teamers Phil Foden, Angeliño and Oleksandr Zinchenko, all of whom will hope that impressing here could set them on their way to a big season. Each got some minutes in the friendly matches, but nothing quite compares to facing a top Premier League side with a trophy on the line. Zinchenko in particular is likely to start thanks to Benjamin Mendy‘s long-term injury.
An interesting problem for Guardiola to solve is the central striker position. In the absence of Aguero and Jesus, Sterling was often deployed in the lone striker role during pre-season. With the two South American forwards back before the game, Guardiola could opt to play one of those natural strikers in spite of their shortage of training, or he could trust the sharper Sterling to continue his good form up front. Alternatively, Pep could throw a curveball by starting Lukas Nmecha, but I wouldn’t put any bets on that.
One of the biggest questions on the minds of every City fan is how new signing Rodri will fare in his first competitive match. Our new #16 had an impressive pre-season, showing his new supporters what he’s all about with remarkable passing accuracy and calm presence in front of the defence. However, this will be his first big test in English football and I’m sure everyone will be keenly watching to see how he gets on.
Liverpool won’t be at full strength, either. Sadio Mané reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations over the summer so he, just like Mahrez, won’t be back in training in time for this game. Mané is an important player for the reds, who will likely start Divock Origi or Xherdan Shaqiri in his stead.
The final talking point to cover here is that Manchester City have a chance to become only the third club to win the Community Shield in two consecutive seasons this century. Furthermore, Sergio Aguero could become the first player to score in two consecutive Community Shield matches in the Premier League era. These are certainly both records Guardiola and his team will be eying up come kick-off…
The Community Shield: is it a real trophy? Does it matter? And is it actually a real shield? I’ll let you decide. Either way, we can be confident that the players and staff will be keen to win this match and get the season off to a good start. We’ll see you at the weekend for the Predicted Team and all the other coverage from the first game in what could be another incredible Manchester City season…
Our partners at FansBet have some match specials ahead of Sunday’s curtain raiser!
Manchester City to win to nil – 47/20
Manchester City to win and over 2.5 goals – 17/10
Exact match score: 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 – 15/4
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