With the Premier League campaign beginning a week earlier than normal, champions Chelsea come up against FA Cup winners Arsenal in the Community Shield on Sunday afternoon at Wembley.
Of the leading clubs, these two look the most settled, arguably the most stable, as they prepare for their latest assault. Unlike the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool, they have hardly splashed the cash this summer, opting to make subtle alterations to their immensely talented squads.
The most significant change for Arsenal is in goal, where Petr Cech is in line to make his debut against his former employers, who he represented with such distinction for 11 years before moving on as a result of the rise of Thibaut Courtois. It is a significant coup for the Gunners, and one that could go some way to narrowing the gap between these two rivals.
Asmir Begovic is now the man with the task of dethroning Courtois, and he remains Chelsea’s most significant permanent acquisition in the transfer window thus far, although Radamel Falcao is a fascinating loan signing. This could be a chance for promising youngster Reuben Loftus-Cheek to impress, and for Juan Cuadrado an opportunity to prove that he is better than what he produced after joining for the second half of last term. A lot of attention, however, will be on the Player of the Year for 2014-15, Eden Hazard, who is now undoubtedly among the world’s leading stars.
Of course, no conclusions can be drawn from the outcome of this match, in which Arsenal are looking to retain their crown following last year’s convincing win over Manchester City. But meetings between these two sides rarely fail to capture the imagination, given the respect-tinged animosity between the two managers.
Someone who will be missing is Alexis Sanchez, who is on an extended summer break after helping Chile win the Copa America for the first time. Aside from that, both teams will be at full-strength.
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