Hello and welcome to the biggest game of the season that nobody cares about.
Like the melon course, the Community shield is a limp and watery opener, a token gesture to the meal before the main event. It is, year after year, something we simply go through, an evil we tell ourselves is a blessing. BECAUSE THE FOOTBALL IS BACK!
Sort of. This year, champions Leicester City (is that ever going to sound less weird?) take on FA Cup winners Manchester United at Wembley a week before the season kicks off. Football is back, but not really back yet.
Is this where football resets and goes back to normal? Is this the moment the Leicester story ends as England’s most decorated club retakes the mantle in a symbolic hiding at the home of English, nay World, football?
Manchester United are spending money in a panic. Like a man who has forgotten his wife’s wedding anniversary, he’s splashing the cash in all the finest shops to make amends for his earlier apathy. Will she forgive him?
Leicester, meanwhile, are enjoying the ride. N’Golo Kante has decided to get off the Leicester City rollercoaster and hope on that other rollercoaster in west London, but other than that, the band is sticking together.
Is the fun over? Is feudal English football about to revert to type with the lords ruling over the serf? Or will the Occupy Premier League movement hold out for longer, proclaiming further victory for the 99% of English football over the 1%?
When: 4pm Sunday, 7th August
Where: Wembley Stadium
Watch: BT Sport 2
Chris Smalling and Timothy Fosu-Mensah were both left out of Manchester United’s friendly victory against Galatasaray and are doubts for the Community shield. There is little sense in risking players with knocks and strains in what is essentially a pre-season friendly strung-out on hype and pomp.
Leicester City, meanwhile, have no injury concerns other than Jamie Vardy who has undergone surgery that could see him ditch his trademark cast this season. He’s back in training wearing, well, a cast, but it should have healed by the start of the season. This might be a chance to try out new boy Ahmed Musa.
It’s hard to say for the Community Shield. There will, of course, be some players rested, and even those big players who do play from the start will hardly give their all. This game is a pre-season friendly no matter what the managers say.
But pre-season friendlies are chances for managers to see how good their players are, and how they can play together – so don’t expect overly weak teams. Here are some possible lineups.
Jose Mourinho tells us that the Community Shield is for the creme de la creme – we look forward to a footballing display that matches his claims!
How can you not love Claudio Ranieri? But, like Jose Mourinho, we’re not sure about all of this ‘giving the maximum’ guff!
The key to stopping Leicester is usually stopping the Mahrez and Vardy axis, but the overwhelming force that Manchester United have in attack could be where this battle is won and lost.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a physical striker who terrorises defenders with his physicality as much as he does with his technique, but if there has ever been a centre back pairing who won’t be phased by his strength it’s Robert Huth and Wes Morgan.
The doubt, however, is whether they’ll be able to deal with the searing pace of Rashford, Martial and Mkhitaryan who might play off him. Zlatan will be a handful, allowing space for the pace-merchants.
Ibra’s movement in the box in the next phase will then be very dangerous indeed.