Liverpool vs Manchester City
Kick-off time: 3pm BST
Sunday August 4 – BT Sport 1
The new season started as the last one ended, and that’s with Manchester City and Liverpool going toe-to-toe for some silverware, this time in the annual curtain-raiser that is the Community Shield.
There’s usually not too much attention or importance placed on the result of this one, but given it’s the European champions versus the treble-winning dominant domestic force then that ramps up the interest tenfold.
While we all love an overreaction among media and fans alike, this is not a title decider one way or another, but that will not stop the winner being billed as the champions elect or the loser’s chances being written off already – that’s just how football goes.
It’s a glorified pre-season runabout, but don’t for one second think that it won’t be competitive, as these players will want to get an early dig in for what will most likely be another two-horse race for the Premier League.
It may not be exactly the sides that will contest the Premier League title race, but both managers will be fielding as strong a side as they dare with injury a really worry at this stage of the season.
Who will line up?
For the Premier League champions, Claudio Bravo will start in goal with Ederson one of a host of players in both sides returning late from summer international duty – Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Nicolas Otamendi only returning this week.
Not satisfied with a domestic clean sweep, Riyad Mahrez went on to lift the African Cup of Nations with Algeria this summer so has been given an extended break, but it will still be a strong City line-up with Kevin De Bruyne in particular looking to make up for lost time last season.
For Liverpool, Sadio Mane will be their only absentee after he also made the AFCON final with Senegal, and Alisson Becker, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all returned to the squad for pre-season this week.
“We cannot risk any players,” said a cautious Klopp, summing up the tightrope both he and Guardiola face for the game. “We have to see who will be able to line-up and who will train and who will play.”
Klopp said there was a chance both Salah and Firmino could play on Sunday, but made it sound like starts for the pair were unlikely.
Youngsters Sepp van den Berg, Ki-Jana Hoever and Yasser Larouci have played a lot during pre-season, but new signing Harvey Elliott looks like the only one who could make the bench on Sunday, with Klopp’s experienced battlers from last season set to start.
City have been slicker in pre-season and Liverpool’s top stars have played barely half an hour for the Reds this summer, so it’s Guardiola’s side who will be fancied to kick-off the season with a win.
Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Man City
You’re basically watching a friendly with no real clue how fit the best players are and who exactly will play, so it’s perhaps one to wait for the team sheets before pinning your colours to the mast.
However, based on what we’ve seen so far this summer, City seem to be just a step ahead of Liverpool in their preparations and the Reds may well have to use this game as a stepping stone for fitness and match sharpness ahead of their early start to the season on Friday.
There may be no Aguero, Jesus or Mahrez, but there are plenty of attacking options left for Guardiola and the fact of the matter is that City have a better depth of quality in their squad than Liverpool, so if the first-teamers are only playing bit parts in this game the advantage has to go to the Premier League champions.
It should be a relatively low-scoring affair given the respect between the two teams and it being pre-season still, but we should have a 90 minute winner, and while Raheem Sterling hasn’t played great against his former side since swapping Anfield for the Etihad, he usually shows up at Wembley and in the central role he’s expected to play he’s a huge fancy to find the net.