It is that time of the year. When the pre-season is almost at an end. The teams; big and small; are busy wrapping up their transfer dealings while managers try to inculcate new players into their system.But before we get to all that, we have the Community Shield. The annual event where the Premier League winners and FA Cup champions face off.
That this match is not treated as a major trophy is apparent from its rules. Teams can have as many as 6 substitutes instead of the 3 allowed for competitive matches. It gives Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri a chance to evaluate their teams ina competitive environment.
Leicester suffered a big blow over the summer when Kante decided to swap the blue of Leicester for that of Chelsea. There was better news on the other front as star striker, Jamie Vardy, decided to pen a new contract.
The Premier League champions have bolstered their attack with the acquisitions of Nigerian attacker, Musa, and Polish winger, Kapustka. They have attempted to replace Kante with his countryman, Nampalys Mendy, while bringing in Ron-Robert Zieler as cover for first choice goalkeeper Schmeichel.
Contrary to the last 3 summers, this time United have managed to complete most of their transfer business early. The defence was bolstered with the acquisition of Eric Bailly. There was bigger news on the attacking front.
Swedish hitman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, joined on a free transfer. At the same time, Armenian attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan made the switch to Old Trafford. There is yet to be an exodus of players although Bastian Schweinsteiger has been banished to the reserves.
There are rumours Marcos Rojo and/or Phil Jones could be offloaded. At the same time, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay are set to have lesser roles. The summer has been dominated by the Paul Pogba Saga, but the Frenchman is yet to pen a deal with his old club.
Both teams have played 4 matches each in their pre-season campaigns so far. Leicester started with a 2-1 victory over Oxford United. They followed it up with a penalty shootout victory over Scottish Celtic.
The latter featured a superb left footed curler by Riyad Mahrez. However, Leicester were then cut to size in the International Champions Cup. PSG and Barcelona, both put 4 goals past them.
While PSG mauled the English champions 4-0, Leicester fought well against Barcelona. Summer signing, Ahmed Musa, scored a fine brace as Leicester ultimately succumbed 4-2 against the Spanish giants.
United’s pre-season has blown hot and cold. A team mostly comprising reserves and expected substitutes, beat Wigan comfortably. This was followed by a disastrous and harrowing experience in the International Champions Cup.
First United were thrashed by Borussia Dortmund 4-1. It is worthwhile to note that Dortmund had played more matches than United, and had lesser players missing than United. Following this, the derby with Manchester City had to be cancelled due to poor weather.
United returned to form with a 5-2 victory over Turkish side, Fenerbache. Ibrahimovic made his debut in this match and scored 194 seconds in. Rooney also scored a brace on his first pre season appearance.
However, this performance was offset by a drab goalless draw against Everton in Rooney’s testimonial. This led Mouriho to exclaim that his team had had a ‘really bad’ pre-season.
Vardy faces a late fitness test ahead of Sunday’s encounter. The England forward got through 45 minutes against Barcelona unscathed, and Ranieri revealed that he has been training well since. Otherwise, Ranieri has a full squad to choose from.
Schmeichel should start between the sticks, while Huth and Morgan will be the centre backs. Chilwell should start at left back while, either of Simpson and Hernandez could occupy the opposite flank.
Summer signing Mendy could partner Drinkwater at the heart of the midfield. Mahrez is a sure starter while Gray and Schlupp contend for the left flank.
Like Leicester, United too have zeroed down on most of their starting lineup. The only injury concern is youth player Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. It will be interesting to see if Chris Smalling features.
The English defender couldn’t feature in the pre-season due to a knock. He is also suspended for United’s first league match, due to a double booking picked up in the FA Cup final.
David De Gea should start in goal, while new signing Bailly is likely to partner Blind in defence. Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw are expected to play at fullback.
Further up, Ander Herrerra has started all of United’s pre-season matches in midfield. This trend seems likely to continue with either of Carrick or Schneiderlin partnering him.
The fearsome attacking quartet of Rooney, Anthony Martial, Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic look set to complete the lineup. The 4 superstars are yet to adapt to each other’s game.
Mkhitaryan hasn’t been as effective on the right as he was in the number 10 position. Rooney and Zlatan too have failed to strike up an effective partnership, although it is still early days.
Expected Starting XI
Leicester: Schmeichel (GK), Simpson/Hernandez, Huth, Morgan, Chilwell, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Mendy, Gray/Schlupp, Musa, Vardy
United: De Gea (GK), Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw, Carrick/ Schneiderlin, Herrerra, Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Martial, Ibrahimovic