FA Community Shield
Liverpool vs Arsenal
Wembley Stadium, London
Saturday, 29-08-2020 @6:30pm
Ref: Andre Marriner
The 2020/21 campaign officially kicks off in England this weekend as Premier League Champions Liverpool face off against FA Cup winners in the annual FA Community Shield clash at the Wembley Stadium.
After a poor start to the 2019/20 term, Arsenal recovered well under Mikel Arteta at the back end of the campaign. The Gunners may have finished eighth in the Premier League, but won another FA Cup trophy to end the campaign on a high, while earning qualification to Europa League football as well.
While there has been a three-week break since then, they will be hoping to carry forward that confidence and begin the new season with silverware. Arsenal head into the fixture on the back of a 4-1 win over MK Dons in their only pre-season friendly till date.
Liverpool, on the other hand, enjoyed a dream campaign last time out, as they ended a thirty-year wait to lift the league title. Jurgen Klopp’s merry brigade broke a number of records along the way, although their form did dip a little once their coronation was confirmed.
Nevertheless, the Merseyside giants have been in decent touch during their pre-season, having beaten Vfb Stuttgart, before coming back from two goals down to salvage a draw against RB Salzburg.
The last time these two teams met, Liverpool tasted a 2-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium. Ahead of their meeting in the season curtain-raiser this weekend.
Arsenal have a number of absentees heading into the game on Saturday evening. Manager Arteta will be unable to call upon the likes of Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi, who are yet to recover from the injuries they sustained in the season gone by.
Bernd Leno is fully fit and available for selection, while new signing Willian is also in contention. William Saliba, who is back from his loan spell at Saint-Etienne is also among the players pushing for a starting berth on Saturday.
Emiliano Martinez missed a good chunk of the pre-season as he had to quarantine himself after a trip to Portugal. As a result, Leno is expected to start in goal, despite the former starring in the back end of the last season. Saliba ought to make his competitive debut, starting alongside Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney in the three-man defence.
Cedric Soares was preferred over Hector Bellerin at right wing-back for the friendly against MK Dons and Arteta is likely to stick with the Portuguese. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who is reportedly closing in on a transfer to Wolves, should start on the left. With Dani Ceballos gone, Granit Xhaka is likely to have forgotten man Mohamed Elneny as his partner in the middle.
Bukayo Saka shone bright starting on the right flank in the latter stages of the last season and should feature in the same position. Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, should slot in on the left, while Eddie Nketiah is likely to lead the line ahead of Alexandre Lacazette.
Liverpool too have a quite a few injury concerns heading into the season-opener on Saturday. Captain Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harry Wilson, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Divock Origi didn’t play in either friendly. Among them, only Alexander-Arnold is likely to be available for the game.
Virgil van Dijk suffered a nasty cut on his head against RB Salzburg, but is available for selection, while new signing Kostas Tsimikas will be hoping to make his competitive bow. Youngsters Rhian Brewster, Ki-Jana Hoever, Curtis Jones and Billy Koumetio could all be in contention.
Alisson Becker is expected to man the goal ahead of Adrian and Loris Karius, who is back from his ill-fated loan spell at Besiktas. With Alexander-Arnold only recovering from an issue, Neco Williams is likely to start at right-back, while Andrew Robertson should feature on the left with Joe Gomez and van Dijk starting at the centre of the defence.
Fabinho is a certainty at the base of the midfield for the reigning PL champions. Naby Keita, who ended the 2019/20 season strongly, is also a shoo-in in the middle of the park, while Georginio Wijnaldum, who has emerged as a target for Barcelona, will occupy the final slot in the three-man midfield unit.
There is no looking past the first-choice attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, although there is a chance that Brewster, who scored a match-saving brace against Salzburg in the last friendly, might get a look-in through the middle.
Arsenal and Liverpool will meet in the Community Shield final for a fourth time (previously in 1979, 1989 & 2002), with the Merseyside club winning the first two such encounters and the Gunners winning the most recent meeting in 2002 (1-0). Liverpool and Arsenal will meet at Wembley for the first time since the 1989 Community Shield, which Liverpool won 1-0 courtesy of a first-half Peter Beardsley strike. This will be the latest date a Community Shield final has been staged since Bolton Wanderers beat Wolves on 6 October 1958 (4-1). Arsenal have won seven of their last nine Community Shield appearances, including each of the last three in a row. Arsenal ended a 10-game winless run against Liverpool in all competitions, beating them 2-1 at the Emirates in July – the Gunners will be aiming to win back-to-back matches against them for the first time since September 2012. Excluding league games, Liverpool have won just one of their last seven matches at Wembley (D3 L3) and remain winless since a 2-1 victory against Merseyside neighbours Everton in the 2012 FA Cup semi-final (D2 L2 since). Excluding league games, Arsenal have lost just one of their last 12 matches at Wembley (W9 D2), a 3-0 defeat to Man City in the 2018 League Cup final. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored a brace in each of his last two appearances at Wembley for Arsenal (vs Man City & Chelsea) – only Alexis Sanchez (5) has scored more goals for the Gunners at Wembley Stadium than the Gabon international (4 – level with Aaron Ramsey). Liverpool’s Sadio Mane made his debut in English football against Arsenal in September 2014 (for Southampton) – since then, he has only scored more goals against Crystal Palace (9) in all competitions than against the Gunners (6).