Perennial Premier League powerhouses Chelsea and Manchester United meet at Wembley in the annual curtain raiser to the new season. Chelsea will be looking to repeat their success of last season’s Shield, when they defeated United on penalties. Chelsea’s domestic double of Premier League and F.A Cup meant that United’s place in the Community Shield is due to their second place finish last season.
Both teams have had a quiet summer. Chelsea have brought in new faces such as Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool and have just got the formalities to tie up in their pursuit of Brazilian international midfielder Ramires. The loss of Michael Ballack, Deco and Juliano Belletti somewhat lessens the squad age at Chelsea and should allow for some young blood to creep through this season for Carlo Ancelotti.
Man United have brought in two players in defender Chris Smalling from Fulham and Mexican international Javier Hernandez from Guadalajara. The only outgoings at Old Trafford are releasing of players and loans to various clubs for their young starlets such as Mame Biram Diouf to Blackburn.
Pre-season has been more productive for the 11 time Premier League champions than it has for the 3 time champions. Man United toured America, picking up two wins and two defeats with their young stars getting plenty of pitch time. They then ended the pre-season at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, thrashing a League of Ireland XI 7-1. Chelsea have won twice against domestic sides, but on their pre-season travels to Holland and Germany, they have been beaten three times and the defence has been blasted by the press and the fans for being frail and making too many mistakes.
For today’s Community Shield game, the Chelsea team has already been confirmed by Carlo Ancelotti and does not feature star goalkeeper Petr Cech, who is sidelined with a calf injury, or reigning Premier League golden boot striker Didier Drogba, who is on the bench. The confirmed starting XI is Hilario; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Lampard; Kalou, Anelka, Malouda. Chelsea will line up in a four-three-three formation as usual.
Man United have yet to release their team, but Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are definite non-starters. It was rumoured that the Da Silva brothers and Michael Carrick would be out as well, but all three trained at Man United’s open training session at Old Trafford yesterday. My possible XI would have to be van der Sar; Neville, Vidic, Evans, Fabio; Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani; Berbatov, Hernandez. Man United should line up in a four-four-two formation.
My prediction for the game will be a 1-1 draw and the game heading to penalties for the third successive year. I think Man United will just edge it and win 5-4 on penalties. Whatever happens, it should be an explosive start to the season.