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Who will raise the Shield?

Who will raise the Shield?

Ahead of the FA Community Shield on BT Sport, two writers debate whether Manchester City or Liverpool will be crowned Premier League champions this season

Everyone knows that in battle you need a shield to mount a defence (or an attack). That’s why both of these clubs will be looking to pick one up on Sunday…

FA Community Shield, Sunday 4 August, 2.30pm, BT Sport 1 HD (CH 527)

Listen to the wind! Listen. Can you hear it? It’s a murmur at the moment, a slight whisper in the breeze. But it’s getting louder as its races over the hills and valleys of England like a kraken caught in a hurricane. But wait – is that… Gary Lineker’s voice? He’s calling us to arms. Football is returning from the shadowlands. Or maybe it’s just thunder, and our TV is on in the background. Either way, pack a light jacket, because the 2019-20 season is officially here!

 

As always, the action kicks off with the oxymoron of a competitive friendly, and a fight to win a shield, which is appropriate since both Manchester City and Liverpool have a lot to defend this season. For City, it’s their Premier League crown and an audacious bid to make it three league titles in a row – something that hasn’t been achieved since 2009 by their bitter rivals United.

Meanwhile, Liverpool will be looking to guard their status as champions of Europe, with a win here taking their European Cup haul to seven and cementing their status as joint second on the list of all-time greats alongside AC Milan. But let’s be honest, Liverpool’s eyes are firmly on a different prize this season. Nope, not this shield, but the Premier League trophy, after coming so agonisingly close to it last term in one of the tightest title races in living memory.

 

It was a one-two finish between these clubs back in May, and few would bet against a repeat this season. But which way around? With this Community Shield on BT Sport giving us our first look at the likely top two, a couple of our writers argue the toss…

 

Who will win the Premier League this season?

 

Simon Ward: Liverpool! After so many near misses, this is their year!
 

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp


Liverpool are perfectly primed for the next step up

It’s weird to be talking about a step up because, having finished with 97 points, the golden boot and gloves, the Champions League and only one Premier League defeat, Liverpool had already taken enough steps to ascend Machu Picchu – and then some. So, it’s understandable Jürgen Klopp has faith in this group of lads. (After the number of miracles they performed, these players deserve sainthoods!). Instead, strengthening will come through continuity and stability – no new players to bed in and none lost to protracted transfer sagas, and no dramatic tactical shifts, just more of the same. Expect this sequel to be five stars.

 

Don’t be fooled by the lack of transfer activity

When Liverpool lost the Champions League final in 2018, they moved quickly to firm up the areas that let them down (namely: the keeper). That meant that in the previous three transfer windows the Reds splashed out almost £250 million. But their dealings in this window have been few (young Dutch defender Sepp van den Berg being the marquee signing). But a quick look at the sidelines, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Joe Gomez are returning from injury alongside the introduction of fit-again young’un Rhian Brewster, who has been lighting up pre-season. New signings? They already had them in the sickbay.

 

Klopp has made everyone believe

When Jürgen first came to Anfield, he said he wanted to turn doubters into believers. After last year’s heroics, everyone believes. For so many seasons, Liverpool fans hoped their club would win the league, but few – hand on heart – would say they actually believed it. Now we have the best defence, the greatest attacking trio and a midfield who made Messi look like a Sunday league player. This year we believe, even against one of the greatest ever Premier League sides in City. If they can beat Guardiola’s team at Wembley, it won’t confirm or deny anything about this season, because Liverpool fans already know…

 

 

Joe McGuire: City! They’ve a bought a one-way ticket to Title Hat-trick Town

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola


More consistent than a bagel factory

Only the most deluded City fan would’ve been disappointed with their side’s league performance last season. Though they fell short of the previous season’s haul of over 100 points (albeit by only two points), the sheer fact that Pep Guardiola’s side has managed to score 198 points in the past two seasons is ridiculous, and indicates a level of consistency to their preparation and off-field work that is unlikely to have changed going into this season. Though dreams of another centurion season may be far-fetched, people were voicing similar sentiments this time last year… and we all know how that turned out.

 

Out with the old, in with the new…

As a Champions League-winning manager myself (on FIFA Career Mode, anyway) I empathise with Guardiola’s shrewd recruitment and insatiable ability to constantly strengthen a seemingly un-strengthenable squad. Though an all-time club legend in Vincent Kompany may have departed over the summer, Guardiola’s bolstered his side with a seriously mouth-watering acquisition in Rodri – a small, twisting, midfield maestro who can place a pass on a pinhead. It’s a classic Guardiola signing, and another impressive addition to a squad already stacked with more talent than my digitalised, double-winning 2021-22 Sevilla side.

 

They still have the greatest manager in the history of the game

Guardiola is the best manager football has ever seen – fact. City’s rise under his leadership has been astounding. He’s made a mockery of one of Europe’s most competitive top divisions, and brilliant as Liverpool were last season, they still fell short to Guardiola’s Blues. He can be beaten, as Klopp and Pochettino have notably proved, but not over a full season. Not with this team. Bar a Thanos-style finger snap that causes half the team to disappear into thin air, I don’t see City being beaten this season. And even then, the half that’d be left behind could probably still retain the title at a canter.

 

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