Less than a month after the 2019/20 domestic season drew to a close with the FA Cup final, this weekend sees the curtain raise on what is set to be another clustered campaign, as Arsenal and Liverpool lock horns in the Community Shield under the Wembley arch.
The Reds are appearing in their second successive Community Shield final, following last year’s penalty shootout defeat to Manchester City. However, this year Jürgen Klopp’s side will enter the fray as Premier League champions, after an agonising 30-year wait came to an end back in June.
Liverpool have warmed up for the showpiece match with a training camp in Austria, where they enjoyed friendlies against VfB Stuttgart and RB Salzburg. The latter game proved a bigger test for the Reds, who were held to a 2-2 draw against the Austrian champions after easily dispatching the German side 3-0 in the first fixture.Embed from Getty Images
The Gunners have also been in action in anticipation of this weekend’s match, beating League One side MK Dons 4-1 at the Stadium MK. Mikel Arteta’s side finished the season strongly after an eventful campaign, culminating in a FA Cup final win against London rivals Chelsea, which secured the Gunners’ 14th triumph in the competition.
Liverpool go into the game without a few key midfielders, including club captain Jordan Henderson. The 30-year old is still recovering from a knee injury he picked up in Liverpool’s 3-1 away win at Brighton as they completed the season behind closed doors, but the Englishman is expected to be available for the Reds’ opening Premier League fixture against Leeds United.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will also be unavailable to play against his former employers due to a knee injury that was aggravated during the pre-season training camp. Last year’s final goal scorer, Joël Matip, will also be watching from the stands as he steps up his recovery from a foot injury, whilst Trent Alexander-Arnold should be fit after he missed the Austria trip with a slight injury.
Klopp suffered a slight scare during his side’s final pre-season game, with Virgil Van Dijk forced off following an innocuous collision that left the Dutchman with a nasty-looking head injury. Despite this, the 29-year-old is expected to be fit for Saturday’s clash.Embed from Getty Images
For Arsenal, Arteta has something of a defensive headache, with a string of first-team players unavailable to the Spaniard. Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring), Pablo Mari (ankle) and Calum Chambers (knee) will all be side-lined for this weekend’s game.
However, first-choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno has returned to the side after suffering a knee injury back in June. The German formed an excellent partnership with new centre-back William Saliba in their pre-season win over MK Dons, with the Frenchman also returning from a foot injury he sustained whilst on loan at Saint-Étienne.
Striker Gabriel Martinelli, who is currently back in his native Brazil, is aiming to complete his rehabilitation from his own injury by the end of the calendar year.
By adding to their FA Cup tally just over a month ago, Arsenal proved once again they are specialists when it comes to winning at Wembley. The Gunners have won 13 of their last 14 appearances at the stadium since the infamous 2-1 loss to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final.Embed from Getty Images
The Reds will be looking for a little bit of revenge after Arteta’s side ended the possibility of Liverpool surpassing Manchester City’s record Premier League points. The loss at the Emirates was entirely down to Liverpool’s own doing, with uncharacteristic errors from Van Dijk and Alisson punished after Sadio Mané had scored the opener.
The Community Shield’s reputation as a glorified friendly has only increased in recent years, with Saturday’s showpiece likely to be little different. Both managers will be eager not to overburden their key stars by demanding the tempo required in an ultra-competitive match, and neither will want to enter a busy campaign with any level of fatigue.
Despite this, the return of competitive football in England should always be an enjoyable occasion. Liverpool will be looking to pick up where they left off from last season, with a first success in this fixture since 2006 as good a time as any to start building momentum.Embed from Getty Images
Prediction – Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool