After a summer basking in the glory of being Premier League Champions, it’s finally time for attention to turn to the 2012-13 season and the start of what will hopefully be another successful campaign. For the second season running, City are competing in the Community Shield, this time as Champions, but although there is a trophy up for grabs, the fixture is nothing more than a glorified pre-season friendly.
The league campaign commences next weekend with the visit of newly-promoted Southampton to the Etihad Stadium, so this encounter offers the players a final opportunity to improve match fitness and show Roberto Mancini that they are deserving of a place in the side he names for that opening Premier League game. Not too much ought to be read into this fixture as last year’s meeting between City and Manchester United showed, but it would be pleasing to see signs of the free-flowing, attractive football of which we know the team are capable.
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Avoiding injuries is the key and in that respect, I’d expect Mancini to avoid taking any risks with regards to his team selection. Micah Richards is likely to be sidelined with the injury he picked up on Olympic duty, while Vincent Kompany is touch and go following his calf strain, but may well be rested as a precaution. In his expected absence, Kolo Touré and Stefan Savic are vying for a place alongside Joleon Lescott, though Mancini may decide to deploy the 3-5-2 system he has seemingly favoured in pre-season.
Further forward, Gareth Barry is out for the next couple of weeks at least, so that offers Nigel De Jong the opportunity to stake his claim to protect the defence, whilst David Silva and Mario Balotelli are unlikely to start, having returned late to training due to their summer exertions in the European Championships. Pre-season has seen the triumvirate of Yaya Touré, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tévez link up superbly so it will be intriguing to see how that trio combine on Sunday.
Here is the side Mancini could select:
Unlike City, Chelsea have strengthened their squad over the summer, adding the likes of the hugely talented Eden Hazard and Brazilian sensation Oscar. The implications of those expensive signings in terms of Financial Fair Play remain to be seen but they will certainly add quality on the pitch and for Roberto Di Matteo, it is about finding the balance between giving those attacking options the freedom they desire and having enough defensive cover to stop our own creative stars.
Referee: Kevin Friend – A touch surprising he has been awarded this fixture as he is not one of the best officials in the Premier League. He was in charge of three City fixtures last season, with the Blues winning two and losing one.
Prediction: MAN CITY 2 – 2 Chelsea (City to win on penalties) – This will be a highly competitive encounter, but essentially is still a pre-season friendly with managers likely to make plenty of changes and try out different formations so it is a tough one to predict. I’d expect plenty of attacking football and chances, with goals to be scored by Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tévez, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.