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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Settled Man City are better prepared than Chelsea

Community Shield comes too soon for Maurizio Sarri

Chelsea unveil new head coach Maurizio Sarri
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Chelsea v Manchester City
BT Sport 1, 3pm Sunday

Champions Manchester City are in a better position than Chelsea to land a blow in the Community Shield at Wembley.

The season-opener has come around too quickly for both clubs, who had a lot of players on World Cup duty, but City should still have the edge.

Chelsea were as close to Brighton as they were City last season as the Manchester men finished 30 points clear of the Londoners.

They are also more settled heading into this campaign under Pep Guardiola as the managerial merry-go-round at Stamford Bridge keeps turning.

This summer has seen Maurizio Sarri replace Antonio Conte and, while both coaches are Italian that is where the similarities end, so a bedding-in process could well be needed for the Blues.

Sarri is moving away from Conte's three-man defence to play 4-3-3 and his planning has been impacted by the continued absence of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and N'Golo Kante due to their World Cup efforts for Belgium and France.

Chelsea are short of several big hitters. Cesc Fabregas was injured in Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Arsenal (Chelsea lost on penalties) and Willian was late arriving back from his holiday due to a passport problem to further handicap Sarri.

At least Jorginho has successfully arrived from Sarri's former club Napoli to help stamp the manager's style on Chelsea. The Brazilian-born Italian turning down City to stick with Sarri, but it could be a few weeks before we see the FA Cup winners in full flow.

They are still pushing forward and Sarri is determined to get Chelsea playing on the front foot with plenty of width. With that in mind watch out for the potential impact of Pedro and teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has impressed in pre-season.

Any Sarri versus Guardiola game should be fun - the two last season were exactly that with City beating Napoli twice, 2-1 at the Etihad and 4-2 at the San Paolo with 24 shots on target in the 180 minutes of Champions League action. 

Most of City's players, with the exception of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, have already returned to training and the likes of Ederson, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho can be filed under two categories - some did not get very far at the World Cup and others barely played.

City's only major summer signing, Riyad Mahrez, is set to be available after a pre-season ankle injury and the champions remain as dangerous as ever going forward having broken the century mark for points and goals last season.

Guardiola's men also possessed the best Premier League defence but most of that came from being brilliant at pressing opponents into mistakes, which may not be a suitable tactic at Wembley.

This is still pre-season and the conditions in a sun-baked capital are expected to be testing so expect plenty of substitutions and plenty of goals, with City coming out on top.

Manchester City to win & over 2.5 goals
1pt 11-5 Betfair

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Team news
Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and N'Golo Kante are still on holiday, while Willian returned in midweek. Cesc Fabregas is a major doubt and Maurizio Sarri said he expects to field a similar side to the one which drew with Arsenal on Wednesday.

Manchester City
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are still away, but all of City's other World Cup performers have returned, with Kyle Walker the last of those to return on Wednesday. Riyad Mahrez is expected to be fit after an ankle injury.

Key stat
Chelsea have failed to win any of their last six Community Shield fixtures in 90 minutes.

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Sarri is moving away from Conte's three-man defence to play 4-3-3
E.W. Terms
Sky bet