Community Shield preview: Who’s available, and how will Maurizio Sarri set up?

Club football is finally back!

The official curtain raiser to the 2018/19 campaign sees Chelsea square off against Manchester City on Sunday. Having qualified as the reigning FA Cup winners, we are looking to win this trophy for the first time since 2009, despite making 4 appearances since then. Back then, nine years ago, this was the debut game for a new Italian manager. Carlo Ancelotti led us to a penalty shootout win over Manchester United, before landing the league and cup Double in his first season in charge. Now, Maurizio Sarri has the chance to do the same as he looks to stamp his mark on English football right from the off. The Italian has been called out by critics for having an unproven record at big clubs with no trophies to his name. Now, he has a chance to win one in his very first game in charge of Chelsea.

It isn’t going to be an easy task by any means, against Pep Guardiola’s side who became the first team in Premier League history to record 100 points in a single season. City have at least two top-class players in almost every position on the pitch, and are odds-on favourites to retain the league this year.

Guardiola has been a vocal admirer of Sarri. Last season, after beating Napoli in the Champions League 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium, he described the Italian side as one of the best he’s ever faced. There is a lot of mutual respect between the two, and their principles regarding football are along similar lines as well.

Community Shield preview

Man City team news

City’s only summer signing Riyad Mahrez is expected to be fit for this game, despite being a doubt with an ankle injury earlier on in the week. The Algerian will be keen to impress early on in his career at City, as he attempts to nail down a regular starting place by beating away competition from the likes of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva.

Kevin de Bruyne will not be match fit in time for this one, as he only arrived back this week following Belgium’s run to the semi-finals of the World Cup last month. Vincent Kompany, however, could be fit enough to start. Raheem Sterling too hasn’t returned to the squad after his semi-final run with England.

This game could also mark the return of Benjamin Mendy, who was ruled out for the majority of the last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his knee. He was part of the French squad that won the World Cup, but didn’t make any appearances at the competition.

Chelsea team news

It’s going to very interesting to see the personnel that Sarri chooses for his first competitive game at the club. We will almost definitely be abandoning the three-at-the back setup deployed by Antonio Conte last season. Sarri operated with a 4-3-3 system at Napoli, and continued to do so in pre-season with Chelsea.

Willian only arrived back in training this week, and so Callum Hudson-Odoi is in line for a start. The 17 year-old winger ran riot against Arsenal last week, and could become a big part of the team this season.

In defence, it looks like Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz are going to be Sarri’s preferred partnership at centre-back to start off with. Youth team goalkeeper Marcin Bulka has impressed in pre-season, but Willy Caballero could still be first choice. Thibaut Courtois, amidst several rumours of a move to Real Madrid, has still not returned to the squad.

New signing Jorginho will start in midfield and act as the nucleus of the team, and will be partnered in midfield by Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley.

World Cup winners N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud haven’t returned to the squad yet, and neither has star man Eden Hazard.

Manchester City possible starting XI

Community Shield preview

Chelsea possible starting XI

Community Shield preview

Prediction

This promises to be an open, attacking game of football and will offer an interesting perspective into what we can expect to see at Stamford Bridge next season. There’s a new manager, a new style of play and some new players on show for The Blues. This could, however, prove to be a test that’s a little too difficult for Sarri to handle on his debut, as he takes on the best team in the country.

Manchester City 3-2 Chelsea


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