Manchester City takes on Chelsea in Sunday’s Community Shield — the traditional curtain-raiser to the English season — but the Wembley showpiece will offer few clues as to the destination of the Premier League title.
The glorified friendly between the league champion and the FA Cup winner has been a notoriously poor predictor of success in recent years — no winner has gone on to be crowned champion in the same season since Manchester United in 2010-11.
The game, likely to be played in sizzling summer temperatures here, is set to feature various youngsters and fringe players as World Cup stars ease their way back into club action.
Can Manchester City pick up where it left off last season or will it have a serious challenger?
Will new manager Maurizio Sarri be able to revive FA Cup winner Chelsea, who finished fifth last season after winning the title the previous year under Antonio Conte?
One question for City fans is how manager Pep Guardiola will deploy Riyad Mahrez.
The manager has confirmed his record £60 million signing is in contention to start the match after he was forced off during last weekend’s final game of the US pre-season tour against Bayern Munich.
“Mahrez is good. He had a little bit of pain but he trained day before yesterday — I think so (he can play on Sunday),” said Guardiola, who twice outwitted Sarri in the Champions League last season when the Italian was managing Napoli.
Most of the players who were on duty at the World Cup have now returned to training but Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are still on their post-Russia breaks.
The City manager also revealed how much he was looking forward to locking horns with Sarri, who replaced Conte last month.
Guardiola admitted the match comes at a tricky time without his full complement of players but said City was prepared and would target its fifth Community Shield win. Both sides have four victories apiece in the fixture.
For Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas is a doubt with a minor knee injury.
And France’s World Cup winners N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud, Belgium trio Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Michy Batshuayi, plus England’s Gary Cahill, are yet to return following the World Cup.
Sarri suggested a similar side to the one that featured in pre-season would play at Wembley, meaning 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi could be included.
The 59-year-old is eager to do well but he acknowledges the size of the task against the Premier League champion. Sarri, who has not won a trophy in his career, said: “The match for us is very difficult for one reason: they have worked all together for two years. We started two and a half weeks ago. I want to win.”
The friendly between the league champion and FA Cup winner has been a notoriously poor predictor of success in recent years. No winner has gone on to be crowned champion in the same season since Manchester United in 2010-11
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