And so the season is upon us now! The wait - that long, arduous wait for football is over. Finally, the weekends for football fans will seem complete. Time to shuffle other commitments and that starts from July 30. The Community Shield stares us in the face. And so Liverpool and Manchester City will strap their boots to entertain the watching world. Old warhorses and new acquisitions will line up shoulders aligned. And for the first time the two elite coaches of our time will competitively find out where they stand ahead of the season. A season that could well be as grueling and taxing yet thoroughly enthralling.
Premier League runners up versus Premier League winners. Liverpool though have one more trophy than City from last season. Jurgen Klopp's men won both domestic cups. And came agonizingly close to winning a third cup before Vinicius Jr ended that dream. It was a quite astonishing journey for Real Madrid in Europe. One that culminated in winning the silverware in the most miraculous run to the zenith.
That run left Liverpool heartbroken, as did City's incredible final day comeback. There is a thing about the Etihad Stadium producing late comebacks in the second year of each decade against a team wearing red. It was Aguerooooo in 2012 and Gundooooo came on to replicate that moment in 2022. Since that day, these two teams are yet to meet. And so for the first time in what has been so many times, they go again. Revenge for Liverpool? That can be a dangerous backdrop to a football match. Just ask Mo Salah.
Till then, here's how the teams are shaping up before the Community Shield.
Liverpool in the Community Shield - old warhorses
Alisson is expected to start in goal for Liverpool. The Brazilian goalkeeper is among the best in the world and was instrumental in turning Liverpool's fortunes around. He was the final piece to Klopp's jigsaw that catapulted them into trophy laden campaigns. And of course there is no way history will ever do justice to this Liverpool side. Simply because they have been outdone in the last laps of multiple races. That, though, proves exactly how difficult it is to win trophies. It depends so much on the campaign the rival teams are having. Hence, it must be said till it can be that this Liverpool side has been among the game's great entertainers.
The backline of Liverpool looks fairly settled and solid. Virgil Van Dijk, one of the greatest defenders of the game, will start along side Ibrahima Konate in the Community Shield. The French centre back has grown increasingly in reputation and is now among the probables to be included in the French senior team. The inseparable duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will play on either side as the game's leading full backs.
Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson is Klopp's preferred trio in the midfield three. All three bring different qualities to the midfield. Thiago is the crafty quarterback who can run a game from midfield. Complementing his incredible passing range is the industry of captain Henderson. The leader in midfield and Thiago find their perfect partner in Fabinho who recycles possession and is adept at breaking up play.
And then there is the incomparable Salah. Egyptian king, incredible player and now Liverpool's highest wage earner. Also, the most incredible goal scorer.
Manchester City in the Community Shield - old warhorses
Manchester City have let quite a few players go ahead of the Community Shield. Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have found different clubs. While Fernandinho has returned to his native Brazil, the remaining three have left for London to play more regularly.
City, though, still have a fantastic team at their disposal. Starting in goal is Brazil's second choice g0alkeeper. That, however, is no indication of his ability. Perhaps the best ball playing goalkeeper currently, Ederson will have Ruben Dias and either of Aymeric Laporte or John Stones in front of him in the Community Shield tie. Dias, the Portuguese has taken to Premier League football like duck to water.
Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo will feature as sidebacks in the upcoming Community Shield tie. Both, like their Liverpool counterparts, are experts at covering ground down either wing. Cancelo and Walker can play as either the overlappers or the underlappers in Guadiola's flexible system.
Rodri has been sensation in Guardiola's midfield and will start in the number 6 role. It will be interesting to see who Pep plays alongside him in the other positions. He possesses a plethora of options. Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian and Belgian are likely starters with Grealish showing good form in pre-season.
In fact, whichever combination Guardiola goes for, it will be a strong team for Manchester City. With slickness, subtlety, precision and personal panache, the Community Shield will be littered with glittering footwork from the blue side of Manchester.
The new signings in the Community Shield
Both clubs have acquired some new players, including highly paid star strikers in Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland. While the former will wear Merseyside red, the latter will don Manchester blue. Nunez did not hit the ground running initially and his clips went viral. Such is the social media age. However, Nunez soon turned things around in a pre-season game scoring four goals in one half.
Haaland, on the other hand, comes back to a place he has previously been. His father was a City player back in the day and it seems that Erling likes City. It seems as though he genuinely wants to be in Manchester, wearing that blue jersey. City's other acquisitions, if not as magnificent on paper, are very good acquisitions. Kalvin Phillips is a fantastic signing and adds a different dimension to Guadiola's midfield. If he does make his City debut in the Community Shield, one can expect to see him haring down the pitch and covering every blade of glass.
Liverpool's duo of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz are also relatively new to the system. And either one, most likely Diaz, will start for Klopp in the Community Shield game. Diaz is the long term heir to Sadio Mane and has shown early signs of a talented player. There is little chance that one can replace a player like Mane easily. However, he has the tools and this game against City will be a good opportunity to show the watching world of his ability.
Community Shield games, in essence, are the bridge between friendlies and the actual season. But, even though these managers are generally pally with another, there is no game between such closely contesting rivals that will ever be friendly. So, buckle up!