Friday, 5 August 2016

Community Shield preview: Leicester City v United

77 days after lifting English football's greatest domestic cup, United return to Wembley to face Premier League champions Leicester for this season's curtain raiser on Sunday. 

The Reds 2-1 triumph over Crystal Palace back in May will still be fresh in the minds of many as Jose Mourinho targets silverware in his first competitive match in charge of 20 time Shield winners United.

Last season could not have been a bigger contrast to Leicester's previous campaign.
Having executed a miraculous escape from relegation in 2014/15, they parted ways with boss Nigel Pearson and were again tipped as favourites for the drop.
Instead, incoming manager Claudio Ranieri moulded together an unheralded side of free transfers and journeymen players to send the fans at the King Power into dreamland and the rest is history.

Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan look set to make their official debuts - with Paul Pogba waiting in the wings - but Chris Smalling is suspended following his red card in the Cup final.

Ranieri has a fully fit squad to pick from with new signings Ahmed Musa, defender Luis Fernandez and Polish international winger Bartosz Kapustka expected to feature for the first time for the Foxes. 

Leicester have managed to keep hold of the majority of their title winners, with Riyad Mahrez and 24-goal forward Jamie Vardy staying put despite both reportedly being the subject of bids from Arsenal, but influential playmaker N'Golo Kante has signed for Chelsea. 

While still an honour in the English game, many see the Shield as nothing more than a competitive and high-profile friendly but both managers will be going all out to win Sunday's season opener. 

"I think especially for the players that were involved in last season, it must have a meaning, to play in the Community Shield you need to be a champion or you need to win the FA Cup, and they won the FA Cup so of course we are going to try and win it" explained Mourinho.
"I think we have to face it as a game, of course we can have six changes instead of three so that gives me the chance to give minutes to some players.
"We need to train, we need to play, we need minutes for the players"
"It also gives me the opportunity to play with those than cannot play 90 minutes, because they have no condition to play for 90 minutes, so it will be a little bit of everything" added the boss. 

South Yorkshire referee Craig Pawson will be the man in the middle. 

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