What’s that you say? You’ve been so charmed by the deeply prestigious pre-season International Champions Cup that you want another meaningless friendly before the campaign begins?
Well, aren’t you in for a treat this Sunday, as the FA Community Shield sees Chelsea take on Manchester City. The traditional season curtain raiser pits the FA Cup winners against the Premier League champions, and will see the sides trade early blows ahead of the upcoming domestic campaign.
The Blues are in a state of transition at the moment, as new manger Mauricio Sarri patiently works out which players to use next season, and which to send packing before the looming transfer deadline day.
With a number of key players yet to return from World Cup duty, it’s unclear exactly who Sarri will have at his disposal on Sunday, but here’s the best potential lineup the Italian could pick for the clash against Pep Guardiola’s side…
1. GK: Willy Caballero
Valerio Pennicino/International Champions Cup/GettyImages
With Thibaut Courtois believed to be on the verge of leaving the club for Real Madrid, he’s unlikely to be featuring this weekend.
18-year-old prodigy Marcin Bulka has impressed during pre-season, but Sarri is most likely to give Cabalerro the nod on Sunday, as the Blues will likely be still on the lookout for a new number one.
Anyone who recalls Courtois’ bizarre decision to take a penalty (and miss spectacularly) in last season’s Community Season clash against Arsenal may be relieved to have another stopper between the sticks.
2. RB: César Azpilicueta
Concerns were raised over the future of César Azpilicueta when Sarri was appointed, given the manager’s preference to play a classic back four rather than the three utilised by Antonio Conte – in which ‘Dave’ played as the right-sided centre half.
However, Sarri seems determined to keep utilised the versatile Spaniard, and is likely to return him to his former role of right-back.
The 28-year-old is a firm fan favourite at Stamford Bridge, and could well earn the captaincy should Garry Cahill continue to play a bit-part role for the Blues this season.
3. LB: Marcos Alonso
The left-back area was identified by many Chelsea fans as one in need of strengthening this summer, but the club seem happy with their current options of Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmeri.
After all, it makes more sense to target some more central midfielders to add to the existing dozen or so, right?
Anyway, Alonso is most likely to start on the left in Chelsea’s back four, and Blues fans will be hoping he gets an opportunity to pop another one of his trademark free-kicks into the top corner.
4. CB: David Luiz
Last season was one to forget for everyone’s favourite ‘Geeza’ David Luiz, who’s injury problems and public fall out with Conte saw him become a forgotten man at Stamford Bridge.
However, the tenacious Brazilian has impressed Sarri with his pre-season displays, and is likely to start in the centre-back position on Sunday.
Luiz was a major part of Chelsea’s title winning campaign in 2017, and will be looking to recapture that imperious form heading into the new season.
5. CB: Antonio Rüdiger
Antonio Rüdiger didn’t have the most convincing of first terms at Stamford Bridge last season, as the Blues’ defensive errors let them down on time and time again.
However, the former Roma defender will be well known to Sarri from his time as Napoli manager, and is likely to partner Luiz in the heart of defence.
It’s a big season ahead for the German international, who will have a tougher time nailing down a first team spot with Sarri’s aforementioned formation change.
6. CM: Jorginho
Chelsea’s marquee signing this summer, Jorginho is set to start in front of the back four, and will be entrusted with pulling the strings from a deep midfield position.
Great things are expected of the Italian international, who thrived under Sarri during the pair’s spell with Napoli.
Jorginho’s passing ability really is something special, and Blues fans could be treated to a midfield masterclass on Sunday afternoon.
7. CM: Cesc Fàbregas
It’s fair to say that Fàbregas will most likely be playing a bit-part role for the Blues next season, as Jorginho will be taking over as the midfield creative architect.
However, with N’Golo Kanté still recovering from his World Cup winning exertions, Fàbregas is likely to get the nod and start against the Citizens after featuring heavily for Sarri in pre-season.
After failing to make Spain’s World Cup squad, the 31-year-old will be well rested for the upcoming campaign, and should be fighting fit for Sunday’s game.
8. CM: Ross Barkley
Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea signed Ross Barkley last season, as the injury-prone midfielder failed to break into the first team.
However, the 24-year-old looks to have benefited massively from his summer off, and looks in excellent physical condition.
Sarri appears to have been won over by the player’s work ethic too, and is likely to give him a chance to impress in an advanced midfield role against City.
9. LW: Callum Hudson-Odoi
Sarri has confirmed that 17-year-old wonderkid Callum Hudson-Odoi will remain at Stamford Bridge this summer, escaping a spot on Chelsea’s loan farm bus and continuing his development at the club. How refreshing.
The talented youngster has also enjoyed a fine pre-season, and is likely to be rewarded for his good form with a start at Wembley on Sunday afternoon.
The Blues are notorious for undervaluing their youngsters, but a big performance from Hudson-Odoi could make the Chelsea hierarchy reconsider their apparent distain for the club’s youth.
10. RW: Pedro
Former Barcelona man Pedro has never quite reached the heights he achieved during his spell with the Catalan giants, but could reignite his career if Sarri gives him his full backing.
Under Conte, Chelsea rarely used wingers, with wing-backs providing the side with their width. However, Pedro could now have a chance to shine in his new manager’s formation.
On his day, the 31-year-old still has some of the finest technical skills in the league, and will be hoping to flourish playing Sarri’s one touch still of football on Sunday.
11. ST: Álvaro Morata
Another player falling into the ‘uncertainties’ category, we still don’t know whether Chelsea’s club record signing Àlvaro Morata will be at Stamford Bridge come the start of the season.
For now, the Spaniard is set to lead the line for the Blues, and should start against City, with Tammy Abraham likely to miss out on the teamsheet.
The former Real Madrid man struggled to compete in the highly physical Premier League last season, and will be aiming to prove his naysayers wrong with a strong performance against the league champions.