Chelsea vs Manchester United, Sunday at 2:00
When flashing Santa decorations begin appearing around the place, you know Christmas is close by. When the shops start to stock Easter Eggs, you know your Sunday of gluttony is around the corner. And when ads for the Community Shield start appearing on the box, you know football is back – finally!
The Community Shield is the game that officially kicks-off English football, a week before game one of the Premier League – and what a way to whet our appetites for the season ahead. The Premier League champions versus the FA Cup winners.
As Man United won out their 18th league winning campaign, and Chelsea triumphed over Everton in the Cup final, the two sides meet at Wembley on Sunday afternoon as a curtain raiser to what will undoubtedly be a breath-taking season ahead.
Man United have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez this summer, but gained two Premier League proven players in Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia. Chelsea continue to strengthen, with the arrival of Yuri Zhirkov – and the return from injury of Joe Cole, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack. It’s also the first time we get to see new boss Carlo Ancelotti pit his side against a Premier League rival – an acid test to what Chelsea fans might expect from the Italian ahead of the Hull game.
Of course it’s really only a friendly, no doubt both managers would prefer to start their league campaigns with a win – in return for passing on the event. But what better way to get the 2009/10 rolling than two of the biggest sides in the league in a packed Wembley stadium?
Man Utd fans will be looking out for Michael Owen. The ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid striker joined on a free this summer and will be hoping his campaign stays injury free – and the United faithful will expect goals. They’ll be keen to see the Berbatov and Rooney partnership develop, with Ronaldo out of the squad the spotlight will be on these two to start scoring goals. Antonio Valencia has been impressive thus far in the pre-season games, and should make his competitive debut in the red of United. A number of young players will be vying for their chance to impress, the likes of Tosic, Macheda, De Laet and Welbeck.
Meanwhile for Chelsea, they’ll hope their unbeaten run under Ancelotti can keep rolling. The Blues have yet to lose during pre-season, and with arguably the strongest spine of any side in England, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare early on. Ross Turnbull and Yuri Zhrkov are the only new signings, ‘keeper Turnbull might get a shout in goals while the Russian will get his first taste of big game action somewhere along the left. Michael Essien is ever so important to the Chelsea side, and has an African Nations tournament to look forward to in January, so he’ll be keen to play his best before departing. Andriy Shevchenko is back in Chelsea colours, in the very game he introduced himself to English football, back in 2006 – with a goal in the 2-1 loss to Liverpool.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
Last 3 Community Shield games:
- 2008 – Man Utd 0-0 Portsmouth (United won 3-1 on penalties)
- 2007 – Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea (United won 3-0 on penalties)
- 2006 – Liverpool 2-1 Chelsea