With a week left for the Premier League, Liverpool and Manchester City will kick off the season by battling it out for the Community Shield. The first trophy available, although far from the most glamorous one, it still has a lot to offer and allows fans to get their first taste of the season.
The one consequence of winning the first men’s domestic treble for Manchester City will be the fact that they’ll have to play Liverpool in the Community Shield. The first game of the season, the appetizer to what is shaping up to be a dramatic and entertaining Premier League season, the Community Shield is the first trophy available for both sides.
Two sides that are jam-packed with talented players, but since it's still pre-season, not all of them will be on display on Sunday following a rather hectic pre-season for a few. Thanks to the African Cup of Nations and the Copa America, both Liverpool and Manchester City will be without a few key stars.
The Reds will be without Sadio Mane, with both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in contention to start. The other front-men did also take part in the AFCON and the Copa America respectively but returned early and took part in a pre-season friendly against Olympique Lyon.
Manchester City, on the other hand, could be without Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, and Nicolas Otamendi who only returned this week. The trio could start but that’s all down to Pep Guardiola and whether or not he decides to risk them. Nevertheless, there will still be a catalogue of fantastic players on show for the Premier League’s curtain-raiser but what would it be if the two teams were combined?
Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
The first of many Liverpool names on this list, Alisson had a fantastic debut season with Liverpool and alongside Virgil Van Dijk, was amongst their best players. He finished the season with a rather impressive 21 clean sheets in the Premier League alone. That doesn’t include a sensational Copa America performance, where he’s ahead of Ederson in the pecking order at Brazil.
But taking nothing away from the Manchester City shot-stopper, who nearly matched Alisson save for save, clean sheet for clean sheet. He finished with 20 clean sheets in the Premier League, conceding just 23 goals in the Premier League. Alisson, on the other hand, conceded one less.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Finishing a season with 12 and 11 assists and 21 clean sheets in the league is a phenomenal achievement by any player, let alone a full-back. But that’s exactly what both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson did. While Alexander-Arnold broke the record set by Leighton Baines and Andy Hinchcliffe, Robertson added his name alongside the former record holders.
But even their achievements were outdone by Virgil Van Dijk and his phenomenally consistent performances over the course of the season. The Dutch defender was an absolute wall in defence, even keeping his record of never having being dribbled past. That alone sees him surge past John Stones, with Nicolas Otamendi partnering him.
It should be Aymeric Laporte after the season he had, but the Frenchman is injured and could potentially miss the Community Shield. That combined with Otamendi’s intentions to stay at the club despite interest from Atletico Madrid and his impressive displays when picked, does see him outdo John Stones for a place here.
A Manchester City dominated midfield, of course. Especially after the way the trio dominated opponents last season. There is no denying what Liverpool’s midfield trio did manage last season but when it comes down to sheer quality and talent, Pep Guardiola has assembled a rather sensational midfield.
33-year-old and still at his very best, Fernandinho is flanked by David Silva in what will be his last season at Manchester City and Kevin De Bruyne. The Brazilian may have been replaced by Rodri but the Spaniard still needs time to adjust. So for now, Fernandinho should keep his place in the starting eleven, alongside a world-class creative pair in Silva and De Bruyne.
Arguably the two best creative midfielders in England right now, few players created as many chances as David Silva. Kevin De Bruyne, on the other hand, may have struggled with injuries but he still created 36 chances, 11 of those big chances for his team-mates. No one else in the Premier League even came close to that tally.
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
51 goals and 30 assists in the Premier League alone. That’s what this trio managed, and that doesn’t even include Sergio Aguero and Sadio Mane. It’s a sensational total, one that any club would be proud to have but that shows just how hard the competition has become. The sheer fact that the Golden Boot was shared by three players further proves that.
But with Mane still on holiday and Aguero’s presence in Manchester City’s team not confirmed, it makes picking this front-line that much easier. Roberto Firmino automatically finds a place in the combined 11, flanked by Raheem Sterling and Mohamed Salah on either side.
Both flourished as inside forwards, combining to score and create 62 goals. To put that in perspective, only the top six sides managed to score more goals, with Chelsea managing just one more than Salah and Sterling combined.
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