One of the most unusual football seasons in history kicks off this weekend, with the annual Community Shield curtain raiser being contested by Manchester City and Liverpool. It should be a great match for the neutral. Despite the low stakes, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will be keen to get the early bragging rates in this developing rivalry. Last season, the matches between the pair were excellent watches and it should be more of the same this weekend.
There has been a small rebuild at Manchester City this summer. Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fernandinho have all departed the club. Some have had bigger impacts than others, but it is a sizable chunk of the squad leaving. Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips and Julian Alvarez have joined the club, while Marc Cucurella has been targeted to join them. The biggest change will be a move to a formation with a central striker, with two coming in during the summer. The excitement is rightly focused on Haaland and his arrival adds plenty of intrigue about how Guardiola will set up this season.
Liverpool have had less upheaval over the summer, but they have sold one of their key players in recent times. Sadio Mane has joined Bayern Munich, while Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi have also left. Darwin Nunez is the headline addition, but Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsey add competition to the squad. Klopp’s team have centred on the front three in the last few years and it is likely that only Mohamed Salah will be the only one remaining in their starting eleven. That provides some question marks, but the Reds’ have recruited excellently under FSG. They should be set for another great campaign competing in every competition.
This will only be the second time that Liverpool and Manchester City have contested the Community Shield. On the previous occasion in 2019, Manchester City won on penalties.
In the last seven meetings between these two clubs, there have been 28 goals with both teams scoring in six of those matches.
A case can be made that Kevin de Bruyne has been the best player in the Premier League during the last few seasons. Liverpool fans will argue that it has been Mohamed Salah, but both players are now at the level that they can compete for the Ballon D’Or. This is especially true if their own sides can win the Champions League. The focus over the summer has been the arrival of Haaland at Manchester City. It will provide an extra dimension to the side, but people shouldn’t forget about the quality of De Bruyne. He remains the talisman for Guardiola’s side and his own output could reach new highs with Haaland to feed. Last season, the Belgian had his best goal-scoring season with 15. He only registered eight assists. Due to the team not playing with a recognised striker, there was a greater focus on De Bruyne to score goals. This season, he should be able to return to his creative best. If he manages this and maintains his goal-scoring threat, it could be a career defining season.
The departure of Sadio Mane underlines the faith that Klopp has in Luis Diaz. The Colombian attacker arrived in January and he immediately became a regular starter for Liverpool. To arrive and start as many matches as he did underlines his quality. Liverpool were competing on all fronts and in contention to win a quadruple. It takes a special player to break into a team of that calibre half way through the campaign. Now, he will be the regular starter on the right wing and the direct replacement for Mane. In his first few months at Anfield, he contributed four goals and three assists with a goal involvement every 137.7 minutes. As he adapts to English football and Liverpool’s system, his productivity should improve in the final third. This season could see Diaz emerge as one of the best attackers in Europe.
Aymeric Laporte is expected to miss out, but Ruben Dias should be available. John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden haven’t played with the first team in pre-season, so all could feature this weekend.
Alisson Becker won’t be fit to start, which means that either Adrian or Caoimhin Kelleher will deputise. Diogo Jota and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are not fit to play a part.
As shown by the stats above, there are normally goals between these two sides and that shouldn’t change this weekend. With nothing riding on the game, it could be even more open than matches in the Premier League. Liverpool seem to have had the better of the recent matches, so they could take the early bragging rights at Wembley.
Manchester City 2-3 Liverpool