They may be two of the biggest names in English football, they may be the last two Premier League winners, and they may be meeting in the traditional curtain-raiser for the new season, but Sunday’s Community Shield match against Manchester City isn’t the start to Chelsea’s season. It’s not even the beginning to the beginning of the season.
Key players still won’t start, and we even have another meaningless friendly after it, against Lyon two days later on Tuesday (where we’re more likely to see serious minutes for said key players). Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kanté, Oliver Giroud, and Gary Cahill are all only due back this weekend. They may get in a training session, maybe. More likely is that their first activity will be medicals and conditioning work.
Manchester City are much in the same boat. They sent 16 players to the World Cup (Chelsea sent 14), 11 of whom made it as far as quarterfinals. Guardiola has used “the youth” for much of preseason so far, and he’s also unlikely to deviate too much from that plan.
As usual, there will be no extra time if the scores are level after 90 minutes, and the penalty shootout is once again the ABBA system, rather than the standard ABAB that every other competition uses (including those that trialed the ABBA thing recently). Each team can use six of their seven named substitutes.
Date / Time: Sunday, August 5, 2018, 15:00 BST; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Referee: Jonathan Moss — love him or hate him, Chelsea win a lot when he’s the man in the middle. We beat Swansea and Brighton under his supervision last season. Let’s hope we don’t get a replay of Bobby Madley’s madness from this same match last August, when he showed Willian a yellow for diving after Bellerin fouled him in the box.
Forecast: Clear and sunny. Temp of 29°C (84°F). No rain. Light wind.
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); none (USA); Sony Ten 2 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); ESPN+ (USA); Sony LIV (India)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea gazumped City for Jorginho, so that should add a bit of spice to what could be an otherwise unremarkable and (literally) friendly meeting, especially given the respectful, cordial, maybe even friendly relationship between the two head coaches.
Cesc Fàbregas managed to pick up a knee injury in the last game and was reduced to crutches for at least a couple days, so he probably won’t be fit to start. Sarri is planning on selecting an unchanged lineup otherwise, barring any further fitness or training issues, which should mean another start for 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi, greased lighting personified.
Sarri declared a public intention to win this thing — a slightly different tone from the “fun” message throughout July — and start his Chelsea career off on a good note.
Manchester City team news: Other than new (and only; HA!) signing Riyad Mahrez — it may be hard to believe, but he’s actually their record signing — famously snubbed by Germany for the World Cup Leroy Sané, and go-getter Bernardo Silva (who’s reminded everyone that he’s really good in City’s last game), Pep Guardiola has pretty much played the kids the whole preseason. As mentioned above, that’s been a bit of a necessity for him, and for most of the rest of the top six teams.
It’s anyone’s guess how City will line up, but an attacking trio of Mahrez, B.Silva, and Sané is already good enough to beat most teams. Guardiola’s bunch should continue working as a well-oiled machine, though their aging midfield core will be a concern — thus their big effort to sign an heir to 33-year-old Fernandinho, but missing out on both Jorginho and Fred (who joined Manchester United instead).
View from the frenemy: Bitter and Blue
Last time: The last meeting between these two was the infamous match at the Etihad in which Antonio Conte infuriated pretty much everyone with completely passive tactics, even when behind by goal. So, instead let’s enjoy the last time we topped Pep Guardiola, a 2-1 victory on our way to the title in April 2017.