Back in the days when football still had some morality left, this fixture used to be called the Charity Shield and everybody knew that it’s main purpose was not just being the kick start to the top flight season in England but also a way for football to give back by raising some money for charity.
Those days are long gone now and instead we’re left with media stories that should have been left in some gossip magazine.
Such is the malaise of modern day football that what was once an exciting fixture between two sides who had tasted glory the previous season, we’re now witnessing a match up between the two sides who, put simply, could pay the most.
I’m sure this feeling will pass once the real Premier League season kicks off but I’m finding it hard to get enthusiastic about this match, bring on the matches between sides who aren’t able to splash out tens of millions on players untried in the league, bring on the sides willing to trust in those players brought through by their youth academies, the ones we have seen come into their club at a young age and grow into established players.
Ok, enough griping, let’s look at the match:
Chelsea have been very busy since winning the Champions League, signing up attacking talent all over the place but neglecting to shore up their slightly leaky midfield and they are also yet to replace Drogba who was a vital component to their play last season. With Lukaku looking like he is going to be sent out on loan (West Brom are apparently interested), they are going to be short of a strong physical presence up front, something that worked so well under Di Matteos system last season. Fernando Torres looked to be regaining some form before the summer break and although he didn’t have an outstanding European Championships, he still managed to win the Golden Boot and score in the final.
The acquisitions of Marin, Oscar and the Hazard brothers have been all over the papers this summer and if Chelsea can find a system to suit all of these prodigious talents, they will be a side to be feared. Pre-season results haven’t been particularly encouraging though, their most recent match ending in a 3-1 defeat against Brighton.
How ever sparkling this side may be in creative talent, they still don’t look too hot at the back or sharp up front, Luiz is still likely to be a bit of a liability at centre half and John Terry did not have an outstanding Euro 2012, a competition Gary Cahill missed due to injury. In midfield, Essien started that game against Brighton and if he can stay fit and regain the form that made him one of Europes best midfielders, then he will be able to shore up what will surely be one of Englands most fearsome midfields, if not, then Chelsea will either have to play Lampard, Obi or Ramires in a more restricted role or go with the less experienced Romeu.
Man City have been much quieter in the transfer market, they missed out on signing Eden Hazard and have been looking to lose a few players from their squad list rather than adding more. You know that if any world class players become available, Man City will be interested but even without any additions, they have a fantastic side, one that is settled and ready to go.
If you’re going to be picky, you could say that with Kolo Toure looking like he is on his way out, Stefan Savic yet to impress and Micah Richards looking settled at right back, City could do with another central defender to complement Kompany and Lescott, perhaps that’s why they tried to sign Jan Vertonghen who ended up at Spurs.
All in all though, City have a squad they are surely happy to start the new season with, they are bristling with attacking talent and put some good sides to the sword last season, only struggling in European competitions.
With Englands number 1 in goal, they have a steady influence who was probably the top goalkeeper in the country last season, their defence was rock solid and their midfield showed good balance with Yaya Toure and David Silva the stand out players.
Up front they have an embarassment of riches and can even afford to lose a couple of players that would walk into most Premier League sides (no I’m not referring to Roque Santa Cruz), John Guidetti has returned from a successful loan at Feyenoord last season and is looking to make an impact in the Premier League this time around, whether that be with City or another side on loan, if he gets his chance, keep an eye out for him.
So, how do I see this playing out?
Oscar is still playing in the Olympics as I write this so that selection headache will have to wait for Di Matteo, even so he is going to struggle to balance his side out and introducing players to the Premier League is hard enough without the added pressure of their hefty transfer fees. I expect Hazard will start alongside Torres and Mata in a front 3, in midfield, Essien, Lampard and Ramires will probably start, with one of those to be replaced by Jon Mikel Obi part way through the match. At the back we will see the familar back line of Ivanovic, Terry and Cahill in central defence and finally Ashley Coe at left back, Courtois has gone back out on loan so Petr Cech will take his usual place between the sticks.
The Man City side is tougher to predict as Mancini like to spring the occasional surprise but I think we can expect to see Hart in goal, Zabaleta at right back, Lescott and Kompany in central defence with Clichy at left back, midfield is harder to predict but I expect four in midfield with Milner, Touré and David Silva in there, one of Barry, Nasri or De Jong are likely to take the other spot.
Up front I think we can safely predict that Adebayor will not be getting a look in but that still leaves Balotelli, Dzeko, Aguero and Tevez fighting it out for only two spots.
I can see this game ending in a Man City win and with odds of around 2.3 being available, there is a lot of value there in my opinion. I’d also look at the “both teams to score market”, with the attacking talent on display, there is a good chance both sides will end up with a goal, the odds are a little tight at around 1.7 though.