The Community Shield Preview: Manchester City vs Chelsea

August 03, 2018

- Grant Whittington

This weekend marks the traditional curtain-raiser for the new Premier League season, as Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking Manchester City take on Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side at Wembley.

There’s no doubt that both side’s preparations for the new season have been hindered by the World Cup, with neither side expected to be at full strength for the game. The Blues are likely to be particularly disjointed, with Sarri having only taken over at Stamford Bridge following the dismissal of Antonio Conte in July.

Here, we’ll take a look at the Community Shield in detail and ask who is most likely to win this weekend.

Evolution or Revolution for the Blues?

While Manchester City will start the game as narrow 8/7 favourites to win, there’s no doubt that neutrals will be intrigued to see how Chelsea line-up.

After all, Sarri has only been able to complete the signing of the Brazilian-born midfielder Jorginho since his appointment, with the Italian star having followed him from Napoli despite the initial interest of City. Veteran keeper Rob Green has also signed on a free transfer, but he is not expected to play a significant role this season.

Not only this, but the contrast between Sarri’s style of play and Conte’s preferred philosophy could not be starker. While the latter liked to utilise wing-backs as part of a solid defensive formation, Sarri’s fluid 4-3-3 system is based on high pressing and direct, forward passing.

As a result, we should expect a number of marginalised Chelsea players to enjoy a new lease of life under Sarri, including the Brazilian centre-back David Luiz. The defender was frozen out at Stamford Bridge last season after the Blues’ title win in 2017 but is now expected to play a key role in marshalling Sarri’s high defensive line – perhaps at the expense of Gary Cahill.

Cesc Fabregas, who was often little more than a support player under Conte, is also likely to feature heavily, with the precocious Ross Barkley expected to adopt a key role in Sarri’s mobile midfield. The Englishman has certainly enjoyed an excellent pre-season and may well be given license to attack City’s back line on Sunday as a result.

With fellow Spaniards Pedro and Alvaro Morata also seeming to embody Sarri’s intense philosophy, Chelsea’s starting 11 could well boast a new and largely unfamiliar look at the weekend. The question is whether they can adopt to their revolutionary new system or not, particularly given the quality of their opponents.

Should we expect more of the same from City?

Interestingly, City have also been quiet on the transfer front this summer, with the £60 million signing of Algerian wide-man Riyad Mahrez their only major deal to date.

Unlike Chelsea, we should know precisely what to expect from City this weekend, even accounting for Guardiola’s penchant for tactical innovation and evolving his sides.

This means that City will most likely adopt a similar style to Chelsea on Sunday, with both sides looking to deploy high defensive lines, intense pressing and operate primarily in the opponent’s half. The only slight difference is that Guardiola’s sides tend to adopt a slightly more patient approach in possession, whereas Sarri likes to move the ball quickly and reach the attacking third quicker.

This was borne out during a thrilling Champions League encounter between Sarri’s Napoli and City last season, which ended in a 4-2 away win for Guardiola’s men. Here, Napoli roared out of the blocks and hustled City with their direct playing style, taking an early lead through Lorenzo Insigne.

However, City gradually took control through a period of measured possession, as they began to breach Napoli’s high line and stretch the Italian side thin.

City will therefore look to stamp their authority on the game from the start this time, maintaining possession and looking for opportunities to play Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero in behind. Even in the absence of Word Cup stars Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, City can call upon youngsters like Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz to fill these voids and punish Chelsea’s high line.

The Last Word – who will win at Wembley?

Sarri and Guardiola have both remained true to their similar playing philosophies throughout their careers. As a result, we can expect an open and enterprising game on Sunday, with each side looking to press their opponents back and exploit high defensive lines.

There will also be several opportunities for young players to shine at Wembley, with Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany and potentially Kyle Walker all joining de Bruyne, Sterling and others on the sidelines.

Alongside City’s own academy starlets, Chelsea’s impressive seventeen-year old winger Callum Hudson-Odoi could also start on Sunday.

As for who will win, much will depend on how Chelsea can adapt to Sarri’s philosophy and implement this against the best side in England. After all, Liverpool highlighted City’s vulnerability against teams that press them high on two occasions last season.

All in all, we’d back Guardiola’s side and can see them starting their campaign with a win this weekend.


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