City ready to accept Reds' challenge

Liverpool fill the void as the league runners-up as well as the Champions League winners.
Liverpool fill the void as the league runners-up as well as the Champions League winners.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • After fighting all the way to the final day of the Premier League last season, Manchester City and Liverpool have an immediate chance to feel each other out in the Community Shield, English football's curtain-raiser tomorrow.

Both teams will square off at Wembley, with the match traditionally pitting the Premier League champions against the FA Cup holders.

But as Pep Guardiola's men won both trophies en route to an unprecedented domestic treble - they also lifted the League Cup - Liverpool fill the void as the league runners-up as well as the Champions League winners.

While many consider the game to be a friendly, there is still a trophy on the line, and City manager Guardiola considers the Community Shield "a traditional tournament" and "an honour to play".

At his pre-match press conference yesterday, he said: "We deserve to play this competition because we won both (the league and the FA Cup). We won almost all (except the Champions League).

"Quite remarkable. Not enough to have our players as the best in Europe but it's quite good. We (Liverpool and City) know each other better than the first season, it's easier. But (we) start again, our rivals will be stronger, we are ready to accept the challenge."

City and Liverpool will be almost at full strength, with most of their stars who had played at the Copa America and the Africa Cup of Nations back in training, although both Guardiola and counterpart Jurgen Klopp are unlikely to risk throwing their returning players into the fray.

While Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and City midfielder Fernandinho will not feature after being given an extended break following their summer exertions, Guardiola feels his squad are not far off from playing their customary "high-intensity" football.

They are seeking to make it a hat-trick of league titles, which was achieved only by Manchester United in the Premier League era.

Guardiola, who insisted he wanted forward Leroy Sane to stay at the Etihad in the face of interest from Bayern Munich, said: "The player didn't tell me that he wants to leave so that's the only reality I want... Leroy is here and trying to be ready to play the season.

"We can play (at a) good level soon. The way we're training, we know what we have to do."

City will be bolstered by new face Rodri, with the Spain midfielder signing for a club-record £62.8 million (S$105 million) fee from Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have been far more conservative in the transfer market, only bringing in youth talent in the form of Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliot.

Klopp, though, is confident Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be like "a new signing" after he missed most of last term with a cruciate ligament injury.

He is also putting his faith in the club's academy products as they bid to end their 29-year wait for a league title, calling Harry Wilson "a really good player" and Rhian Brewster "a top talent".

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'City ready to accept Reds' challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe