Friday, July 29, 2022

Community Shield

One weekend before the Premier League begins its new season, the league’s two finest clubs showcase their immense talents when Manchester City and Liverpool face each other in the Community Shield on Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s Citizens edged Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool by a single point last season to capture Manchester City’s fourth league title in five years. The Reds appear in Saturday’s match by virtue of their victory in the FA Cup over Chelsea last season. Liverpool also won last year’s Carabao Cup and came within an eyelash of an unprecedented quadruple of titles, falling just short of Manchester City in the league and Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

The two clubs are expected to vie once again for the Premier League title and European glory. Manchester City is still chasing its elusive first Champions League trophy and has reloaded for the upcoming season. Erling Haaland, the 22-year-old scorer of 62 goals in 67 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, provides Guardiola with the true striker missing from last year’s league champion line up. Argentinian international Julian Alvarez also joins the attacking mix while the Citizens bid farewell to Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus who have joined league rivals Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively. English international and former Leeds player Kalvin Phillips joins the club as a defensive midfielder while Fernandinho departs. Other offseason roster activity for Manchester City included versatile Ukrainian defender/midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko signing for Arsenal. The key storyline, however, is Haaland’s introduction to the Premier League and whether Jack Grealish can take a step forward in his second season for the club. Grealish’s preseason assist on Haaland’s first goal in a blue jersey is hoped to be a recurring event by Citizen supporters.

There is only one club that can realistically snatch the league title from Manchester City and that is Liverpool. While the two clubs were separated by just a point last season, the next best club in the league was 18 points further down the table. Third place Chelsea has had a tumultuous offseason under new ownership and does not look to be markedly improved despite the Sterling addition. Liverpool’s prospects for a second Premier League title in four years could hinge on the quick acclimation of striker Darwin Nunez to the Premier League. The former Benfica striker flashed his potential while scoring four goals in a preseason friendly versus RB Leipzig. The Uruguayan international’s success can help soften the loss of forward Sadio Mane who has left for Bayern Munich. Liverpool has been evolving its front line with the additions of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz in recent seasons while longtime striker Bobby Firmino is currently the subject of transfer rumors. Liverpool does things differently from Manchester City. Dynamic fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are integral to the Liverpool attack whereas the creativity for Manchester City lies in a midfield which includes the incomparable Kevin De Bruyne. The competitive balance between the two clubs was further evidenced in identical 2-2 score lines in the two league meetings between the clubs last season.

Saturday’s 100th Community Shield will see the match played away from its traditional Wembley setting as the Women’s Euros final this weekend has moved the charity event to Leicester’s King Power Stadium. 

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