How is it possible that it’s the start of the new season already? Didn’t 2018/19 only end a fortnight ago?
If you’re Sadio Mané or Riyad Mahrez, then that’s actually the case, as they faced off in the Africa Cup of Nations final just two weeks ago. Their efforts make the four-week break that Copa America finalists – such as Alisson, Ederson, Fernandinho, Jesus and Firmino – have enjoyed look like a gap year.
With such disruption, it’s hard to judge what state Liverpool and Manchester City will be in ahead of the Community Shield on Sunday 3pm. Jürgen Klopp’s side have lost to Dortmund, Sevilla and Napoli in the last few weeks, which sounds like a set of results which would have them on the brink of getting knocked out in the Champions League group phase.
City, meanwhile, have won more games, but do victories against lesser lights like Yokohama F. Marinos, Kitchee FC and West Ham United count for anything? If nothing else the results make City firm favourites to win the match in Paddy’s eyes. The champions of England are 5/6 to win in 90 minutes, or 1/2 to do so at some point, while the champions of Europe are 11/4 in normal time, or 8/5 to lift the shield.
History is on Liverpool’s side to an extent. Since Klopp took charge of the Reds, they have won six and lost only two of the meetings, though they did lose the last clash between these teams.
However, Liverpool have understandably looked a little goal-shy in pre-season, with their first choice front three absent, so it’s impossible not to think City will have too much for them. Guardiola’s guys were the first champions to win the Community Shield for five years last season, and they’ll repeat the trick on Sunday.
Best bet: Manchester City to win the match at 5/6.
Around the start of the decade, the Community Shield developed into an entertaining goal-fest. City lost to United 3-2 in 2011, before defeating Chelsea by the same score line 12 months later.
It has been a bit more sedate in recent years though. Only one of the last four has seen at least three goals, when Manchester United beat Leicester 2-1 in 2016. Are you going to fall asleep after your Sunday roast watching this one? Depends how much you eat, really. But there should be goals here – there was a goal less draw at Anfield last season, but the other five dust ups in the last two seasons all paid out on over 2.5 goals, and I think this match will too.
Liverpool have yet to display a sturdy defence in pre-season, having only kept a clean sheet against Mike Dean’s Tranmere Rovers. The champions have been scoring for fun, as they usually do, so they should find their way through the Reds’ back line.
But they’ve also been conceding, and if they displayed one tiny weakness over the second half of 2018/19 (aside from dealing well with late VAR decisions) it was that they conceded from set pieces, which is an area of strength for Liverpool. Both sides should find the net on Sunday.
With Liverpool’s front three barely back in training yet, lord of the manor of Anfield, Divock Origi, has been leading their line in pre-season. And he’s done okay, picking up three goals along the way. Salah and Firmino made the first appearances of pre-season on Wednesday, and the latter has been Klopp’s top scorer away from Anfield against City, with three. Bobby scored against Lyon in mid-week, so is the best bet from a Reds perspective.
Best bet: Roberto Firmino to score at 12/5.
Raheem Sterling has famously never scored against Liverpool since leaving them, but I think this could be the match where he breaks his duck. He scored two in his last competitive match for the Citizens, which was at Wembley, and has netted a total of four goals in pre-season. Had Sterling not missed a penalty against Wolves he’d have scored in all four of City’s warm up games, so he’s the man to back here.
Best bet: Raheem Sterling to score first at 5/1.
*Prices are correct at time of publishing but are as fluid as City’s attack