England’s traditional opening to a new season, the Community Shield, will feature the champions of England Leicester City against FA Cup winners Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Both teams travel to London with a fair amount of new faces in their lineups and a lot to prove after contrasting seasons in the Premier League.
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has all but put his team’s Premier League triumph behind as the Foxes look to cope with life atop the Premier League and in Europe, insisting that Sunday’s match-up is far from a glorified friendly.
“A friendly? When is the Community Shield a friendly? Never. Of course we will give it the maximum,” said Ranieri in his pre-match press conference. “I also think Manchester will give it the maximum. It will be a true match.”
It’s a symbolic return for United manager Jose Mourinho, who faces the manager he replaced at Chelsea in 2004 and the one who also spelled the end of his time at Stamford Bridge back in December with a 2-1 loss to the Foxes at the King Power Stadium. With a chance to begin his reign at Manchester United with silverware, chances are that Mourinho will look to take this fixture a bit more seriously after only winning once in four attempts at the Shield.
Leicester defender Robert Huth and United midfielder Marouane Fellaini could go head-to-head after both received identical three-match bans on May 1 for what former United manager Louis Van Gaal called “sex masochism”. If both end up lining up for another corner together, expect one of either a hair tug or mystery elbow to be committed in the box.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to make his Wembley club debut, after only competing there once in a 1-0 loss to England for the Swedes. United’s strong defense from last season will welcome Eric Bailly into the fold with his recent move from Villareal for £30 million pounds as Chris Smalling works back to full fitness.
This preseason’s breakout star for Leicester and recent record signing Ahmed Musa will provide an extra boost of speed up front with Jamie Vardy to challenge the likes of Bailly and Daley Blind at the back for United. The Foxes conceded eight goals in two matches against Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona at the most recent International Champions Cup, meaning Leicester could either be attempting to cope with the loss of N’Golo Kante in the midfield or are simply going through the motions of preseason.
For the Foxes, it’s their first visit to the new Wembley and their first since 2000 when captain Matt Elliot notched two goals in a 2-1 win over Tranmere Rovers for the club’s second League Cup title in four years.
Back then it was the Worthington Cup, and Leicester’s last time competing in the Community Shield was a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Filbert Street in 1971 as second-division champions when it was the Charity Shield and Arsenal backed out. It’s safe to say the Foxes are only getting back into the swing of being involved in England and Europe’s biggest competitions with the Champions League draw of August 25 in Monaco fast approaching.
Location: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Kick-off time: 16:00 PM GMT, 11:00 AM Eastern, 08:00 AM Pacific
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