Chelsea take on Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday as the new season gets underway with the Community Shield.
There’s plenty of intrigue, too: a look at how Maurizio Sarri has imposed his style on Chelsea, Riyad Mahrez potentially starting for Manchester City and another new-boy, Jorginho, set to line up for the Blues, having seemed destined for Manchester.
Mark Worrall (Chelsea) and David Mooney (Manchester City) pick through all that and more …
What shape are you in ahead of the new season?
Mark Worrall: Given that Sarri has only been in charge for three weeks, the portents are looking good. He spoke about having fun at Chelsea and although it’s early days, there is a positive buzz regarding the Italian’s enterprising style of football. The signing of Jorginho, Sarri’s midfield general at Napoli, has ensured the new manager’s philosophy has been immediately instilled on the pitch where it’s also been clear which players have really got the bit between their teeth to impress.
But once again, Chelsea appear to have striker problems. Alvaro Morata has been given chances though flattered to deceive and with the transfer window closing next week it’s possible there may yet be some big-name arrivals and departures.
David Mooney: City haven’t really done much over the summer. They broke their transfer record for Mahrez, but it’s the first summer where they’ve not made big changes to the squad for some time — some would argue there’s little need to, having dominated the league so impressively last term. In that sense, City are in a great position. It doesn’t help that they sent the most players to the World Cup (despite Jose Mourinho’s whinging about a depleted squad), but that’s not come out of nowhere and the club should have had time to plan what happens until they all return to training.
It does, though, make it difficult to get a reading on City in preseason — it was a decent tour of the United States, but the majority of those who went aren’t likely to be big players for the Champions on the Premier League’s return. The biggest positive is that everybody will be back fit and City haven’t made any major changes that will need to bed in. In theory, they should hit the ground running.
Does this game really matter?
MW: Ordinarily not. However, it’s an opportunity for Sarri to assess the claims of players like Ross Barkley and Callum Hudson-Odoi. Given Manchester City’s dominance of the Premier League last season it’s also an opportunity to gauge Sarri-style Chelsea against the champions. The memory remains of Conte’s side suffering without the ball in both league matches against City which ended in 1-0 defeats in the 2017-2018 campaign. From a motivational point of view, beating City will be a fillip going into the new season.
DM: It probably matters more to Chelsea than to City. That’s not to say it’s a difference in mentality, just that they have more need for the boost it may give — with transfer rumours surrounding Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, plus a new manager looking to get going at Stamford Bridge, a win could settle the nerves for the new season. City, meanwhile, have little to prove by winning that wasn’t already proven last season.
Jorginho: How crucial will he be? What club suits him better?
MW: There was a joke doing the rounds a couple of years ago that when reigning Premier League champions Leicester City sold N’Golo Kante to Chelsea they also sold their title to the Blues. Such was Kante’s influence in helping the Foxes win the league and repeating the feat at Stamford Bridge, nobody argued. Jorginho electing to rejoin Sarri at Chelsea rather than signing at City could bear similar fruit — he looks set to be a hugely influential cog in the Blues’ machine. It’s unlikely that Guardiola would have restructured the way he does things at the Etihad in order to build his team around Jorginho, but that’s what Sarri appears to be doing. In Chelsea’s preseason friendlies, the 26-year-old has been at the hub of many passages of play and clearly Sarri sees him as the on-field conductor of the pieces he is orchestrating on the training ground. It’s a fantastic piece of business — City’s loss is most definitely Chelsea’s gain.
DM: This could be the season where Fernandinho finally slows down at City and that may mean that missing out on Jorginho could be a blow. That said, Fernandinho’s been suspected of slowing down for three years and he just … hasn’t. City fans will be hoping the same is true for this season, as the club say no more major arrivals are scheduled.
MW: Chelsea have started all their preseason friendlies forcefully, going ahead early on and Sarri is likely to instruct his charges to have a crack at City from the off. City conceded two goals inside 25 minutes in their last preseason friendly against Bayern Munich and Hudson-Odoi will relish the opportunity to wreak havoc cutting in from the left flank. Unselfishly, the 17-year-old has created plenty of opportunities for Morata which have been squandered however against City maybe he will be tempted to try and carve out a path to goal himself. Guardiola may well continue with the likes of youngsters Douglas Luiz, 20, and Eric Garcia, 17, in defence and it will be a test of their nerve to see if they can repel the fearless Hudson-Odoi.
DM: This all depends on the sort of team both sides name. It could be two inexperienced teams giving the fans an end-to-end game, one could go strong or both could name a near full-strength XI. If it’s the latter, how Kyle Walker and his right-sided centre-back, Nicolas Otamendi or John Stones, deal with Hazard will be important and could be the difference between cutting off the supply to Chelsea’s forwards and keeping them quiet.
MW: 2-1 Chelsea. Sarri and his players may well have that extra bit of motivation to do well at Wembley, and that could prove the telling factor in what should be an exciting game.
DM: 2-2, with a City win on penalties.