Both Manchester City and Liverpool go into Sunday’s FA Community Shield clash with depleted squads affected by the summer’s international tournaments.
The 2019-20 season kicks off on Sunday afternoon as the Premier League and FA Cup winners Manchester City go head to head against Premier League runners-up Liverpool in the annual FA Community Shield encounter at the Wembley Stadium.
Liverpool will go into the game without star man Sadio Mane, who was part of the Senegal side that made it to the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita were also involved in the tournament and returned to training only this past week, along with Alisson Becker and Roberto Firmino, who were part of the Brazil setup that lifted the Copa America.
And Klopp hinted at making the most of the six substitutions allowed in Sunday’s game, greeting the fact that both sides will have those many players to work with on Sunday.
The Liverpool boss said, “The good thing is we can have six substitutions, that’s really good. We will find a starting line-up where you can change six times in that early a game in the season against a very demanding opponent who asks for a lot of footwork and runs and all that stuff. We will probably use all six [subs].”
Alisson is expected to line up between the posts for Liverpool guarded by the backline consisting of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk at the centre, flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Fabinho is nailed down for the defensive midfield slot, while captain Jordan Henderson is also a certain starter in the middle of the park.
The third midfield slot will see Naby Keita battle it out with Adam Lallana and James Milner. However, the Guinean impressed in the Reds’ 3-1 win against Lyon in their latest pre-season encounter and should get the nod against Manchester City.
Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino should take their places in attack, although they are unlikely to play the entire game. With Mane absent, the spot on the left flank is up for grabs and Klopp is likely to use Georginio Wijnaldum in that role, having had some success with the Dutchman during the pre-season.
For Manchester City, Riyad Mahrez will miss out after being part of the Algerian national team that won the AFCON. The South American contingent of Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus and Ederson joined the team only last week and are unlikely to start on Sunday. Benjamin Mendy is ruled out, while Aymeric Laporte is an injury doubt for the game.
“The physical condition [of the squad] is not the best,” said Guardiola at his pre-match presser. “We will try to play with players who played minutes in pre-season because they have rhythm and they know the situation. The guys who came back later maybe will have a few minutes. There are more chances of substitutions.”
Claudio Bravo has impressed during pre-season and is set to be rewarded with a starting berth in goal. Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko are automatic picks in the full-back slots, while John Stones should start as one of the two central defenders. With Laporte a doubt for the game, Guardiola might be forced to start Otamendi alongside the Englishman.
New signing Rodri will slot in as the defensive midfielder for Manchester City, with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne providing the creative outlets from the middle. Bernardo Silva will occupy the right flank, while Leroy Sane should start on the opposite side. With Aguero and Jesus returning to training only on Friday, Raheem Sterling should continue to lead the line for Manchester City.