Liverpool vs Manchester CityCommunity Shield, KO: 15:00 Aug 4, 2019, Wembley
THE champions of England clash with the champions of Europe on Sunday afternoon at Wembley in the traditional English curtain-raiser that is the Community Shield.
Last season these two familiar foes fought out one of the most thrilling and pulsating Premiership title races in recent history that saw Liverpool amass 97 points and still finish runners-up to City.
Yet, despite being inseparable during the last campaign the bookies make Man City big favourites to lift the Community Shield for the second time in 12 months with the Citizens favoured at 19/20 (Bet365)
The lofty odds on offer for the Reds to prevail is perhaps a reflection of their poor pre-season form that seen them suffer defeats to Dortmund, Sevilla and Napoli.
However, Jurgen Klopp has been unable to call upon a number of his star players over the close season due to their involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations and the Copa America respectively.
The Anfield sides formidable front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane were all on international duty over the Summer but only the latter is expected to be absent in London.
Exertions from international commitments could also pose City boss Pep Guardiola a problem when it comes to picking his staring 11 after the likes of Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez all endured onerous off-seasons from club football.
In their absence Raheem Sterling has led the line for a City side who have enjoyed a smooth pre-season that seen them win all of their games, apart from a draw with Wolves.
Following a scintillating 2018/19 season Sterling was named the Football Writers Association Player of the Year as his 25 goals in 51 appearances proved to be instrumental in City finishing the season with a clean sweep of domestic trophies.
Sterling has evidently evolved under Guardiola's stewardship and should he be deployed in a more central role on Sunday then the 5/1 (Bet 365) on offer for him to score the opener could be worth a flutter as could the 22/5 (PaddyPower) that is available for Sterling to score anytime.
However, an alternative goalscorer to consider is Liverpool striker Divok Origi following his memorable strikes in last season Champions League triumph against both Barcelona and Tottenham.
The Belgian has since had his contract renewed and could feature from the start and if so he will attract admirers at 8/1 (Bet 365) to score first, however I would be more tempted to plump for the 5/2 (Bet 365) on offer for Origi in the anytime goalscorer market.
It would be a wise move though to await confirmation of the starting lineups for this fixture before placing any bets – and be mindful of the fact that each side can make up to six substitutions.
Roberto Firmino should feature on Sunday at some stage and I like the look of the 5/6 (BoyleSports) on offer for Firminno to have a shot on target.
Firmino's goals helped inspire Brazil to Copa America glory last month and he will be coming up against a City defence that has lost a key figure in the shape of Vincent Kompany, so the 5/6 price boost BoyleSports are offering for a Firmino shot on target looks generous, even more so in that it doesn't have to result in a goal.
Goals are something that both of these sides are renowned for but history shows that this curtain raiser tends to be a low scoring affair and what's more only three goals were scored when these two juggernauts collided during the last campaign.
However, both managers have made it known that they don't share that view and they will both be keen to claim further silverware and lay down a marker for the season ahead.
Therefore, I suspect that both teams will be desperate to get the win and I wouldn't pay much attention to their contrasting close season results when these two rivals contest the Community Shield.
Both sides could be without key players, but Liverpool showed they can cope with with that last season and I do believe the Reds are defensively stronger than the Citizens and therefore backing Liverpool on the Double Chance appeals at 9/10 (UniBet).
This Community Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester City will be played on Aug 4, 2019 and kick off at 15:00