Rivalry renewed? As Manchester City once again travel to Wembley, this time in an effort to capture the first of four possible domestic trophies, they face what’s becoming a familiar foe in Liverpool.
Depending on your view of the community shield, this could be a big trophy to start the season. For me, it’s a mentality thing and if City can knock off Liverpool it will send out a reminder of who runs the game in England and get City started off on the right foot (or left, if ya know David Silva scores the winner). Neither team will be at full strength with both teams having players returning from later vacations thanks to their international duties, but there’s still going to be endless talent on display throughout and both managers will be telling their men to leave it all out on the field.
3 Things to Look Out For
No Striker, No problem?
With Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus likely not fit for a starting role after a late arrival to pre-season thanks to their Copa America efforts, Pep will have to opt for a false 9 approach, with Raheem Sterling the likely candidate. While these are big boots to fill, Sterling has looked dominant in a false 9 role in the past and City are an incredibly fluid side when he is able to float around the front 3. Look for there to be positional changes throughout the match as Raz will likely swap in and out with Sane and Bernardo as the match goes along. Liverpool defenders will surely have their hands full with City opting for a non-traditional attacking approach.
The Return of KDB
It’s often been said that Kevin De Bruyne feels like a new signing, and honestly I find it hard to disagree. He only made 32 appearances in all competitions last season, compared to 52 the season prior. While City managed to not miss a beat, his omission was certainly noticeable in Europe and in games against teams that are tough to break down. That all appears to be in the past as De Bruyne put in a dominant pre-season and made some passes that reminded you just how good he is. If the Belgian can stay healthy and get back to his best, I think we’ll see the best ever version of KDB. When fit, he’s the all around midfielder and City will need him to be at his best against a tricky Liverpool side.
Who Will Step Up?
With City’s #1 defender in Aymeric Laporte out with a knock, who will step up for City in defense? It’s no secret Liverpool have one of the most potent attacks in world football, and City will have to be ready from kickoff to defend against this side. While it’s likely John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, the clubs only fit senior center backs will start, how will they fare? John Stones is coming off a shaky summer in which he had a massive blunder in the Nations League with England, and Nicolas Otamendi is on the back 9 of his career and just returned to training after his time at the Copa America with Argentina. Are these two ready to combat the likes of Salah, Firmino, Shaqiri and the rest of the Liverpool attack? John Stones certainly provided the defense necessary in the home match vs Liverpool last season, can he create that magic again this time around?
Pep won’t have the luxuries of choosing from a fully match fit squad, however his community shield lineup is still nothing to laugh at. With many players just returning from their vacations, namely Mahrez and the Copa America boys, Pep will still have majority of his squad to pluck from.
In net, Claudio Bravo looks to set to retain his spot from the pre-season tour of Asia. Coming off a season in which he did not feature due to a ruptured achilles, he put together a dominant pre-season and looks to be getting back to his very best. He has yet to face an attack like Liverpools in quite some time, so this will be a big test of where he’s at in his progression from the injury.
In defense, Pep has fairly limited options. With Danilo rumored to be off to Turin, Laporte having picked up a knock and Mendy still not ready for first team football, I expect Pep to go with the side that featured most in pre-season. At right-back, expect to see Kyle Walker line up. With the rumored arrival of Joao Cancelo, you can imagine Walker will be wanting to prove himself that much more to Pep. In central defense, there’s really no other choice but john Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. This pairing went on a dominant tear in the 17/18 centurions season, but Otamendi did just return to training and Stones is still looking to regain his best form, something to watch out for here. At left-back, look for Oleks Zinchenko to retain his spot as he looks to head into the season as the #1.
In midfield, look for a talented trio that starts with new record signing Rodri at the base. The Spaniard had a decent pre-season in which you could see the adjustments he had to make on display. This side is vastly different from the setup he was in at Atletico and I wouldn’t expect to see him at his very best until after the new year. Nonetheless, he’ll provide a great option when Fernandinho is not available. Ahead of Rodri, it’s ole reliable in David Silva as well as “new signing” Kevin De Bruyne. With this being Silva’s last season in Sky Blue, I think he’ll carve out a unique “big game” role and prove to be crucial as City set their sights on more trophies and glory. Alongside him, potential City captain KDB will look to build off his incredible pre-season in which he looked like he was nearly back to his very best after a long season of injuries last year.
Up front, with Aguero and Jesus having just returned this week from their vacation, I would expect Pep to opt for a false 9 approach while maybe one of the strikers opt for a bench role. On the wings, Bernardo Silva and potential outgoing Leroy Sané should be tasked with giving Liverpool a lot to think about. Sané played a crucial role in both winning the penalty at Anfield and scoring the winner at the Etihad last season. Will his mind be on his football, or his future? Up front, Raheem Sterling will likely continue to operate the central striker/false 9 role in the absence of Jesus and Aguero. He has slowly grown into this role more and more as his time under Pep has gone on and I’d love to see him bag a goal against his former club.
Pep treats every game like a final, and while this is still a pre-season game to some, it isn’t to Guardiola. I expect him to put out a strong side and tell his men to give it there all. Starting the season with a trophy against one of your biggest rivals is crucial for mentality going into the season and I think this City side are prepared for battle. I’ll go for a 2-1 victory with goals from De Bruyne and Silva.