After a highly constested Premier League between Liverpool and Manchester City last season in which the winner only emerged on the last day, both sides will again kick-start the season with the Community Shield at the Wembly Stadium on Sunday. Considering that The Reds only defeat in the league was inflicted on them by the Citizens, Sundays clash will be more than a charity
The 111th FA Community Shield will be contested this weekend between Manchester City and Liverpool and it will be the Reds’ first appearance in English football’s annual Super Cup since 2006, while the Sky Blues will be looking to retain the pre-season silverware for the first time in their history.
Tradition dictates that the yearly curtain-raiser is usually contested between the Premier League and FA Cups winners, but as Pep Guardiola’s side clinched all three domestic cups in 2018/19, they will have to pit their wits against last season’s top-flight runners-up.
This is a match that largely needs no introduction, such was the ferocity and waspish pace that these two sides went toe-to-toe for the Premier League title last season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were edged by Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering domestic juggernaut by just the single point, while further woe was added to their cause knowing that the highly-coveted gong would have been in the Anfield trophy cabinet in 25 of the previous 27 years – the club’s points tally was the third-highest since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.
They lost just the single match – against City and had the best defensive record, making Guardiola’s achievements all the more emphatic.
Liverpool did manage to clinch the Champions League title, the last and possibly most cherished frontier that Guardiola is yet to conquer in the North West, but a first-ever Premier League title continues to elude them.
As for pre-season, City have enjoyed a fairly subdued summer compared to their usual standards, competing against more modest opponents rather than the usual elite that comes with the International Champions Cup, and they will be in high spirits at Wembley having not lost a single match in regulation time.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have taken on the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, while their most recent match was a 3-0 defeat to Napoli in Edinburgh.
With the forthcoming football season looking set to be another heavily-contested one between City and Liverpool, this precursory match could set the landscape for things to come. And Klopp has already warned Guardiola that his side will be a “different animal” come Sunday, having disappointed at times during pre-season.
He said: “It’s a new situation. We have prepared everybody as well as possible. We have to fight at the start of the season 100 per cent with all we have and the good thing is if the opponents want to analyse us now then they think ‘easy job’ – but we will be a different animal next week.”
The German’s comments came in the immediate afterglow of their 3-0 humbling to Napoli, in which the Reds were run ragged and failed to really create any semblance of the attacking threat they illustrated last season.
And so, Klopp will now be hoping to throw down the gauntlet to City, letting their North West adversaries know that they will still be in the mix for the Premier League title next campaign.
But, of course, Guardiola is a perfectionist, so Klopp can expect no post-season hangover or complacency from their opponents this weekend.
With the new Premier League season just around the corner, fans will be hoping that the club’s top performers and star players from each side are ready to hit the ground running as soon as they take to the turf.
But can we expect both sides to be firing on all cylinders come Sunday? Perhaps not. Despite no World Cup dominating our screens this summer, there have been a number of other elite international competitions taking place across the globe, including the Africa Cup of Nations, Concacaf Gold Cup and Copa America.
As such, a number of key players from each side have been absent for most of pre-season and are now enjoying extended breaks before returning to club football.
And Klopp has been quick to highlight that he doesn’t think his side would be in peak condition come the weekend, despite the aforementioned comments about Liverpool being a “different animal”.
He stated: “I don’t think we can expect to play our best game next Sunday, best game of the season. That’s how it is with the pre-season we had and we have a long pre-season after that but it’s not about that, it’s about winning a football game. That’s what we’ll try.
“So it’s a game against City and it’s the most difficult game of the season in any season and you have to be ready. It’s a good test and I’m sure we will have to defend in a pretty good way because if you don’t defend against City, you could get a proper knock and that’s not ideal from our point of view.”
“So then we have another five days before Norwich. We cannot risk players or whatever, we have to see who we can line up and who will train and who will play, but of course we have to make sure we have a line-up that gives us an opportunity to win the game and that’s what we try.”
For Liverpool, they have welcomed back Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita following their respective injury lay-offs, while the likes of Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah have joined the club’s training camp in Evian.
There are no major injury issues concerning Guardiola, meanwhile, apart from long-term absentee Benjamin Mendy, while this weekend could see the introduction of Rodri, who has featured heavily throughout pre-season.
This will be the first time these two sides have met in the Community Shield, with the Reds being the second-most decorated club in the annual competition’s history, boasting 15 wins, while the defending champions have enjoyed success just five times.
City’s record against the Merseyside club also makes for pretty grim reading, having only won 55 matches to the Reds’ 104, and that pattern of play has remained fairly consistent even in recent times, with the Citizens only claiming three wins in their previous 12 outings.
Liverpool v Man City
Venue Wembley Stadium
Date Sunday, August 4
Kick-off 3:00 pm