Man City prepare for Chelsea test
English Premier League champions Manchester City meet FA Cup winners Chelsea in the Community Shield at Villa Park on Sunday.
The traditional curtain-raiser to the English domestic season, the fixture has been shifted from Wembley Stadium, London, to the home of Aston Villa due to the national arena’s use as an Olympic venue.
The corresponding match last year saw 2010/11 league champions Manchester United come from 2-0 down to beat cross-city rivals City 3-2.
Young midfielder Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones, an off-season acquisition from Blackburn Rovers, impressed off the bench for United, who won thanks to a 94th-minute striker from Portuguese winger Nani.
But it was City who went on to take home the biggest prize on offer last term, winning the championship, their first of the Premier League era, on goal difference from United.
City gave their fans a victory they are likely to cherish forever along the way, as they hammered United 6-1 at Old Trafford on October 23.
Chelsea meanwhile finished a distant sixth in the league, but still enjoyed a season to remember, as they lifted the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas, fresh from winning a treble in his first full season in charge at Porto, took over Chelsea to much fanfare at the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign.
But he was sacked in March and replaced by assistant Roberto Di Matteo, a former Chelsea player who duly led the team to an improbable cup double.
Di Matteo was rewarded for orchestrating the Champions League triumph with a two-year contract, and will be charged with returning Chelsea to title contention in the coming seasons.
The club has been active in the transfer market, bringing in Brazil playmaker Oscar from Internacional and Belgium forward Eden Hazard from Lille, as well as German winger Marko Marin.
But the team must make do without talismanic striker Didier Drogba, who brought an end to his eight-year stay in west London after netting the winning penalty in Chelsea’s Champions League final shootout win over Bayern Munich.
City meanwhile have been unusually quiet in the transfer market, with reported targets such as Arsenal’s Robin van Persie and Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez thus far failing to arrive.
The imminent enforcement of UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play regulations could also cost City a chance to sign sought-after Brazilian winger Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo.
Despite the lack of major signings, City manager Roberto Mancini still has a wealth of talent at his disposal, and much of it is likely to be on show against Chelsea’s exciting new crop on Sunday.