It snuck up on us, the football season is back again – Chelsea will be facing Manchester City at Villa Park, unusually, in the FA Community Shield on Sunday. Both clubs are considered major contenders to win the league this season and this head-to-head match may set the tone for things to come.
The Blues have not been extremely impressive so far in their preseason matches, their US Tour benefited them financially and commercially but yielded poor results on the pitch and in their most recent recent match they lost 3-1 to Brighton despite fielding a full-strength side. Although preseason form does not dictate how Chelsea will enter their first competitive match they have only shown glimpses of the quality expected of them. The Blues have not managed to keep a clean sheet in their past five preseason games which could spell trouble for the Londoners. Di Matteo has been very good to his squad in preseason giving all his players a fair chance to regain fitness and attempt to impress him. Chelsea have been experimenting with a 4-2-3-1 along with a more familiar 4-3-3 but still are yet to find a winning formation and formula. Bwin are best priced for Chelsea to win at 23/10 but are considered outsiders for this match. They will still be without Oscar who is on international duty with Brazil at the Olympics and have just welcomed Daniel Sturridge back to the squad.
The Citizens have played seven preseason matches and won their last five back-to-back. Manchester City have also had a tougher preseason than their opponents in terms of quality of sides faced; they came up against Besiktas, Arsenal and Wolfsburg during that five game winning spree. Mancini has been experimenting with formations like Di Matteo has been with Chelsea. The only difference between the two sides and managers, so far, is that City has been successful with their new tactical options. Mancini has been inspired by the new à la mode formation in Serie A – the 3-5-2. That formation along with the various other formations that City are adaptable to make them a highly improbable and even more dangerous opponent than usual. City are favourites to win the Community Shield with Bet365 at 13/10. Mancini, when playing with two strikers has favoured the Argentine duo who have both continued to maintain their excellent form from last season. BetVictor have Manchester City’s top scorer from last season, Sergio Aguero, to score anytime in the game at 6/4. The Chelsea back-line will have a lot of work on their hands to keep him from causing them problems.
I’m expecting a very highly charged game between the two clubs. Manchester City will be looking to start as they mean to go on, with a win. Chelsea, on the other hand, have reinvested and off the back of their extraordinary Champions League victory will aiming to reassert their authority domestically. I can’t look beyond a Manchester City win purely based on preseason form along with general squad depth and strength up against Chelsea’s.