The Community Shield is meant to herald a new Premier League season in England with the proceeds from gate taking given out to charity, but for Chelsea and Arsenal, it’s another avenue to prove their bitter rivalry. That is why tomorrow’s encounter at the Wembley Stadium would be more than a charity match
Arsenal and Chelsea resume their rivalry at Wembley on Sunday as the FA Cup winners and Premier League champions battle for more silverware in the Community Shield. Arsene Wenger’s Gunners got the better of Antonio Conte’s Blues on the hallowed turf as they shocked the title winners with a 2-1 FA Cup Final victory.
The two capital clubs have played each other since then – a pre-season friendly which Chelsea won 3-0 in China, but the Community Shield will be a real test of both sides with the 2017-18 season fast approaching.
Indeed, Chelsea goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois believes the Community Shield offers a chance for Chelsea to make amends for their FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal. Conte’s side blew their chance of winning the Double having won the Premier League title in impressive fashion.
“Arsenal are a good team,” he said. “Maybe last season they were not at their best up until the last month. But in the last month before the FA Cup Final you felt they raised their level a lot and in the Final they played a good game, even though the first goal shouldn’t have been allowed. It changed the game but maybe they were on it more than us.
“We have to respect that and say that they were better that day and they won. But I think you cannot say now who is the favourite. We are both strong teams and we are both teams that can win a one-off game. Anything can happen.”
Arsenal also beat Chelsea in the Community Shield two years ago and Coutois is determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
The Community Shield has often been described as a glorified friendly, but the Chelsea keeper doesn’t agree, especially as it’s against Wenger’s side.
When asked if a game against Arsenal can ever be a friendly, he said: “No. For example, last week in Beijing, it was a friendly because there were a lot of changes but you’re playing against another English team so there is a bit of honour as well.
“In the end you cannot avoid it being a friendly but we want to win our games, we want to do well. So for example, the Community Shield, there is a trophy in play. Even though there are six or seven changes it’s still a trophy. People might say that it doesn’t count at the end of the season but it’s still good to start the season with a victory in the Community Shield.”
While Sunday’s match may be a charity friendly, Wenger and Conte will expect their teams to give no quarter as they look to begin the new campaign with full bragging rights.
Arsenal will assess Alexis Sanchez before deciding whether to throw him straight in against Chelsea. The Chile international returned from an extended break at the beginning of August and has recovered from a bout of flu, but has looked in high spirits in training.
Mesut Ozil did not take play a full part in open training at Emirates Stadium on Thursday – a session planned as part of the club’s Members’ Day – but is expected to shake off an ankle problem to be fit for Sunday’s match.
Aaron Ramsey was absent due to a muscular injury but he is also set to be fit for Wembley.
Francis Coquelin is out while Shkodran Mustafi remains a doubt for the Gunners, so Wenger may be tempted to shuffle his three-man defence after experimenting with the likes of Mohamed Elneny at centre-back.
Summer arrivals Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette will expect to start at Wembley, and there is plenty of competition for places in Wenger’s squad ahead of the new season.
In contrast, Chelsea coach Conte is concerned with a lack of options despite bringing in Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger for big money.
Michy Batshuayi has pushed for a role given his impressive goal-scoring form in pre-season, while Pedro is a doubt after suffering multiple fractures to his face against the Gunners in July’s International Champions Cup clash.
Bakayoko may have a part to play, but is not expected to start given a knee injury hampering his pre-season plans.
Diego Costa has been sidelined by Conte as the Spanish striker seeks a return to Atletico Madrid, though it remains to be seen whether the Italian coach will call on the wantaway forward if the Blues’ injury problems worsen.
Fixture: Chelsea vs Arsenal
Venue: Wembley Stadium
The Blues have lost their last three Community Shield matches, last triumphing on penalties in 2009 against Manchester United.
Chelsea have alternated between victory and defeat in their last six matches at Wembley, losing last time out to Arsenal in the 2016/17 FA Cup final.
The last time these two sides were in the Community Shield was in 2015 – Arsenal winning 1-0 thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strike.