Community Shield predictions: Title rivals look tough to split
Liverpool and Manchester City have a chance to lay down an early marker for the new Premier League season when they clash in Saturday's Community Shield.
For the first time since 2012, the traditional season curtain-raiser takes place away from Wembley, with Leicester's King Power Stadium given the honour as the national stadium is due to host the final of Women's Euro 2022 on Sunday.
Liverpool earned their place by beating Chelsea in May's FA Cup final before City's spot was guaranteed by edging Jurgen Klopp's men by a single point in the Premier League title race.
Both clubs have been busy in the summer transfer market, with the Reds most notably losing Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich but acquiring Darwin Nunez from Benfica.
Meanwhile, City have sold Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Oleksandr Zinchenko but completed the headline transfer of the summer by snaring Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.
Neither Nunez nor Haaland have had it all their own way in pre-season and may be eased in as Klopp and Pep Guardiola continue to plan for the unique 2022-23 campaign.
The big team news as far as Liverpool are concerned is that Alisson will miss the game through injury.
The Brazilian goalkeeper has not featured since the pre-season friendly against Manchester United in Bangkok and while he has returned to training, he is not expected to be back until Liverpool take on Fulham next Saturday.
Diogo Jota also remains sidelined through the muscle injury he suffered while on international duty with Portugal in June.
Guardiola confirmed on Friday that Aymeric Laporte will miss the opening part of the campaign with a knee injury.
However, City should be boosted by the returns of Phil Foden, John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan, who all missed the tour of the USA.
The big question will be whether Guardiola starts Haaland, or opts to ease in his Norwegian ace.
Kalvin Phillips might also be given time to settle in to the squad, although the Catalan tactician has backed him to hit the ground running due to his experience of the Premier League.
These two have been tough to separate in recent times, with three of their last four league meetings ending in draws.
However, it was Liverpool who won their most recent encounter, storming into a 3-0 lead in April's FA Cup semi-final, only for an understrength City to bring on the cavalry and get two goals back.
The Reds progressed 3-2 before beating Chelsea on penalties in the following month's final.
This is the second time the pair have met in the Community Shield.
The first was in 2019 when they drew 1-1 before the Citizens triumphed 5-4 on penalties, Gabriel Jesus netting the vital spot-kick following an earlier miss from Georginio Wijnaldum.
Liverpool also lost on penalties to Arsenal in 2020 to leave them on 15 Community Shield wins, the last coming in 2006.
City have won the traditional season curtain-raiser six times in their history, although they did lose 1-0 to Leicester last season.
The Community Shield is often difficult to read.
Leicester went on to lose both Premier League encounters with City after their narrow win last August, on their way to finishing seven places and 41 points behind the Citizens.
Klopp has chosen to rotate during his team's pre-season campaign but will have been encouraged by last week's 5-0 win over RB Leipzig, especially with Nunez netting four times after being introduced at the break.
A scratch side may have lost 1-0 in Salzburg on Wednesday but little can be read into that result as Klopp clearly had an eye on the weekend.
City, meanwhile, have been unbeaten in pre-season and Guardiola selected what could be something near to his strongest side in last weekend's 1-0 win over Bayern Munich.
Haaland scored the only goal in that game.
Only a point separated these sides last season and a draw and result on penalties could again be the outcome, as it was in 2019.
While neither are sure to start, both Haaland and Nunez may well get on the scoresheet in what could be a lively game, with chances likely as both sides find their fitness.