Weblog: The football punter

Manchester City in better shape than Chelsea

Community Shield
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

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Match in Focus


Sampdoria v Sassuolo

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last three against Sampdoria
Expert verdict
Sampdoria have the best defensive record this season in Italy, conceding just four goals in all competitions but they may struggle to beat a decent Sassuolo side. Samp's top scorer Gregoire Defrel will no doubt be eager to notch against his former club, although Sassuolo's only defeats this season have come at Juventus and Napoli and at home to Milan.