Dispel any doubts that fans will take the Community Shield lightly. In fact, this time around, the curtain raiser to the English Premier League will be even more anticipated than usual for the fact that it will be played between two of the most high-spending clubs in English football.
On one hand, the mighty Manchester City, who are coming on the back of a first Championship since 1968 and on the other, the ‘we-finally-won-the-Champions-League’ Chelsea.
With Euro 2012 and the London Olympics dominating the sporting scene, transfer activity has gone a bit unnoticed but those who have followed the recent deals know that Chelsea have clearly led the race in signing players and concluding deals quickly.
In come the highly rated Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar. Out go Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Alex. If you observe closely, then the buys made under Roberto Di Matteo prove to be more worthy than any of the deals his predecessors did (for example- 50 million pounds for Fernando Torres and 25 million for David Luiz).
But will this herald a new beginning for Chelsea? Some will certainly agree to that… especially with Drogba now getting used to chopsticks after using fork and knife for his entire career. The real answer, though, will only come after a few weeks of EPL action.
What the Community Shield will provide is the immediate answer to fans’ questions: Where will Di Matteo play Hazard? Who will sit out to accommodate Oscar? Will Marin play on the right or left? Which formation will Chelsea play?
For Manchester City, whose manager Roberto Mancini is clearly frustrated by the lack of transfer activity, it will be getting back to basics. There are no marquee signings this close season. Not yet (but we’re happy he’s buried the argument of whether Robin van Persie will sign for them or not). But this may actually help the boys in sky-blue.
They’ll most probably know who will play and where. The lethal pairing of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez was reunited as last season neared closure and reaped benefits. With Tevez finally sure that golf is not his game, and football is, and Vincent Kompany having signed a mega six-year contract, the future looks pretty decent.
Their midfield, powered by Yaya Toure and David Silva, will be raring to go after their brilliant link-up in 2011-12. The defence seems solid enough to shut out the best teams. All in all, we would pick City to win this one just because they don’t need to gel well on the competitive stage—they already have.
Even if sports journalists are able to steal some time off the Olympics and its closing stages, eyes will be on whether Chelsea can win the first game of the season rather than whether Mancini will field a team of stars or not.
Either way, the Community Shield winner will go into the new season pumped up and ready to rumble. Mind you, Chelsea might not even play half their first team players since they play twice in Gameweek One of EPL 2012-13. But their fans, as usual, will be boisterous.