by Sam Patterson (@sam0007ster)
It’s the (very oddly timed) curtain-raiser: The Community Shield, Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League champions versus Mikel Arteta’s FA Cup winners.
It’s a Community Shield like no other, one to be played just a month after the final Premier League matchday of the previous season; just a week after the previous season’s Champions League final. And, alas, it’s behind closed doors of course.
Then, before the start of the 20/21 Premier League season in mid-September, there are two weeks of Nations League international football to follow it… odd, huh Reds?
The Reds rounded off their relatively short pre-season tour of Austria (if you can call a two-week training camp a tour) with a 2-2 draw against RB Salzburg on Tuesday. Rhian Brewster scored both goals, so it will be interesting to see if Klopp opts to reward the in-form youngster with a start on Saturday – it’s a glorified friendly after all.
The two sides last met at the Emirates in July, with Arsenal coming out 2-1 victors. It was a defeat which ended Liverpool’s hopes of accumulating a record 100+ Premier League points total.
Form is of little relevance here. Liverpool have played a couple of friendlies (winning one and drawing the other), whilst Arsenal have played just one: A 1-4 victory over League One side MK Dons.
So this one’s up for grabs. Liverpool are favourites – odds on favourites with most bookies – but Arsenal love playing at Wembley. In fact, the Gunners have won thirteen of their last fourteen games there, including a number of FA Cup triumphs along the way.
Arsenal new boys Willan (secured on a free) and William Saliba (brought in for £27million from Saint-Étienne) are likely to get minutes on Saturday, with the latter facing the ultimate test – Mane, Firmino, Salah.
Team News and Predictions
Virgil Van Dijk should be fit after suffering a blow to the face against Salzburg last time out, but Alex Oxlade Chamberlain – the former Arsenal man – is out with a knee injury.
Trent Alexander-Arnold played no part in Liverpool’s Austria tour with a niggling (unspecified) injury issue but could play a part this weekend. Joel Matip (toe) and captain Jordan Henderson (knee) remain sidelined.
New signing Kostas Tsimikas has looked impressive during his outings so far, but with silverware on the line, Klopp is likely to go with the ‘tried and tested’ core. So with injury issues considered, the team picks itself…
Sam’s predicted starting XI: Alisson; Williams, Virgil, Gomez, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah.
Prediction: Expect goals. Arsenal will be confident and desperate to make a statement. Liverpool, on the other hand, will be hoping they can click into gear after a stop-start performance against Salzburg. In the end, the Red’s quality and winning mentality will (hopefully) shine through.
KO: Saturday, 16:30pm UK time.