Football’s BACK already! Man City looking to lay down an ominous marker to their title rivals as Leicester try to spring a surprise in the traditional Community Shield curtain-raiser at Wembley with £100m man Jack Grealish set to make debut
- Premier League champions Manchester City meet FA Cup holders Leicester City in the FA Community Shield at Wembley on Saturday evening
- City have signalled their intentions ahead of the new season by splashing out £100million on Jack Grealish and he could make his debut
- If Pep Guardiola’s side bring in Tottenham striker Harry Kane as well their rivals will face a near-impossible challenge in the title race
- Leicester’s progress under Brendan Rodgers was underlined by their win over Chelsea in the FA Cup final back in May
- But their pre-season preparations suffered a major setback when Wesley Fofana suffered a broken leg in friendly with Villarreal this week
It barely seems five minutes since the Euros and the Olympics are still dominating the headlines but competitive football is officially back in England this weekend.
The traditional curtain-raiser of the FA Community Shield takes place on Saturday and sees FA Cup holders Leicester City take on Premier League champions Manchester City.
As well as firing the starting gun on the new season – the Premier League kicks-off six days later – it will mark the return of capacity crowds at Wembley as the country returns to some sense of normality post-pandemic.
Manchester City will once again be the team to beat in the Premier League and they can lay down a marker when they take on Leicester City in Saturday’s FA Community Shield
Leicester’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea was one of the highlights of last season and a definite indication of the progress the Foxes have made under manager Brendan Rodgers
Manchester City splashed out £100m to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa and the new boy could make his debut in Saturday night’s match
The fixture will, as always, be the first real barometer of where the two teams are at ahead of the real tests to come.
Pep Guardiola’s side will come into the game boosted by the news of Jack Grealish’s £100million arrival and having barely introduced himself to his new team-mates, he is set for his debut, most likely from the bench.
FA COMMUNITY SHIELD
Leicester City vs Manchester City
Saturday; 5.15pm kick-off
Live on ITV and ITV Hub
Bringing in the England star represents one hell of a statement by City as they aim to not only retain their Premier League title but finally crack the Champions League after coming so close last season.
The prospect of a team that finished 12 points clear of their nearest rivals Manchester United in May adding not only an exceptional talent like Grealish but also potentially England striker Harry Kane as well is truly frightening.
But all champions must renew to remain on top and City have well and truly laid down the gauntlet to their challengers.
Having said that, they might be a little under-cooked here with many players who featured in the European Championship and the Copa America still not back to full match fitness after taking later holidays.
Key players Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne will be sidelined ‘for a while’, Guardiola said on Friday, the result of injuries picked up during the Euros.
Pre-season to date has consisted of matches against Championship opposition in Preston North End, Barnsley and Blackpool, which marks a contrast to the usual tours of far-flung destinations to play glamour games.
So Guardiola may field a second string team but with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez and Ruben Dias all involved in pre-season games, City’s idea of ‘weakened’ is different to most other teams.
Pep Guardiola (left) will be determined to win the Community Shield for the third time with City while Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers (right) will hope to spring a surprise
Leicester won 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium in September to inflict City’s first loss last season
But City won 2-0 in the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium as they closed in on the title
With six substitutes permitted, there will almost certainly be a stop-start feel to the second-half as both managers try and build match fitness.
Guardiola will be trying to claim his third Community Shield as City boss following a 2-0 win over Chelsea in 2018 and a penalty shoot-out triumph over Liverpool in 2019. It would be their seventh win in the Shield overall.
Leicester pass this way less often – just two previous appearances – but are certainly familiar with Wembley after their uplifting FA Cup final win over Chelsea back in May.
Brendan Rodgers has raised standards at the club and that 1-0 win was tangible proof of progress even if, once again, they slipped out of the Champions League places.
But pre-season hasn’t been entirely smooth with key defender Wesley Fofana suffering a broken leg following a horror tackle by Villarreal’s Fernando Nino in a 3-2 friendly win on Wednesday night.
Wesley Fofana has suffered a suspected broken leg in Leicester’s friendly versus Villarreal
Fofana (right), 20, was subjected to a horrendous tackle by Villarreal forward Fer Nino (left)
His absence for a good chunk of the season means Rodgers will need to go into the transfer market for another defender and it’s a shame given how well Fofana’s debut season in England went.
There might be a glimpse of new signings Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare and Ryan Bertrand in a meaningful match for the first time.
Bertrand started the Villarreal friendly with the other two coming off the bench. Bertrand also provided assists for both of Leicester’s goals in the first half, scored by Caglar Soyuncu and Harvey Barnes.
Having agonisingly missed out on the top four in the past two seasons, Leicester will be desperate to ensure there isn’t another repeat.
Ryan Bertrand made a positive impression with two assists on his debut against Villarreal
Patson Daka, another summer signing, came off the bench in the second half on Wednesday
But with rivals Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea sure to be stronger and more consistent this time around, there are no assurances despite all Leicester’s forward progress.
They will also have to contend with the Thursday-Sunday rhythm of the UEFA Europa League once again and the demands that places on squad depth.
Leicester will look forward to the new season with confidence, however, and even more so if they upset the odds and beat Guardiola’s City on Saturday night.
Not that the Community Shield is the most accurate bellwether. Last season, Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties in an empty Wembley but went on to finish a miserable eighth to miss out on European qualification entirely.
Arsenal lifted last season’s Community Shield but went on to have an underwhelming season
City beat Liverpool 12 months before that but finished 18 points adrift of Jurgen Klopp’s champions in the title race. So don’t read too much into the outcome.
But one thing everyone can agree on is that it’ll be nice to see a capacity crowd at the national stadium, with around 26,000 tickets allocated to each of the clubs and the rest either to VIP guests or general sale.
It will mean a very blue backdrop to a fixture many still view as a glorified friendly but many managers like to say is a piece of silverware well worth winning.
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