Premier League title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool face off on Saturday in the Community Shield after a busy summer of transfer activity.
Both the reigning champions and FA Cup winners have shuffled their packs ahead of next campaign and this clash at the King Power Stadium offers fans a perfect opportunity to see their refreshed squads in action.
With a first shot at silverware on the line for both City and Liverpool, Sportsmail has assessed their pre-season form, reviewed their new signings and analysed the impact of their departures ahead of the Community Shield clash.
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have overseen significant changes to their squads this summer
Man City’s tour of America did not kick off the way Pep Guardiola would have hoped.
Phil Foden, John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan travelled to Croatia with the under-23s after failing to meet US entry protocols, while Aymeric Laporte, who is still recovering from a knee injury, was forced to stay at home.
But the Premier League champions prevailed in both outings during the brief pre-season tour, winning 2-1 against Club America and 1-0 against Bayern Munich.
Kevin De Bruyne impressed for Man City in pre-season with a double against Club America
2-1 (W) vs. Club America
1-0 (W) vs. Bayern Munich
4-0 (L) vs. Manchester United
2-0 (W) vs. Crystal Palace
5-0 (W) vs. RB Leipzig
1-0 (L) vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Kevin De Bruyne continued to flaunt his world-class talent with a brace against the Mexico City side, while new star striker Erling Haaland scored the winner in the clash with the German champions.
Club record signing Jack Grealish enjoyed a pre-season to remember after two impressive displays, teeing up Haaland with a well-worked assist and reminding Guardiola of the creativity he brings to the City team.
Meanwhile, Liverpool took flight on a tour of southeast Asia and central Europe in a bid to build fitness ahead of another Premier League title hunt.
The Champions League finalists endured a dismal start to pre-season in Thailand with a 4-0 loss to bitter rivals Manchester United.
Liverpool bounced back in Singapore with a confident performance against Crystal Palace, beating Patrick Vieira’s side 2-0 with goals from Jordan Henderson and substitute Mohamed Salah.
Jurgen Klopp enjoyed his best pre-season win on home soil as the Reds travelled to Germany to thrash RB Leipzig 5-0. Star £85million signing Darwin Nunez added to Salah’s opener with four well-taken goals, redeeming himself after a horror miss against United the week before.
The Reds boss fielded a second string line-up against Red Bull Salzburg in Austria and subsequently suffered a 1-0 loss.
While Man City boast a perfect record in pre-season, Liverpool have had two extra fixtures to build up fitness and sharpness, making for an intriguing battle between the Premier League juggernauts on Saturday.
Summer signing Darwin Nunez hit four as Liverpool smashed Red Bull Leipzig 5-0 in Germany
Impact of new signings
City’s blockbuster £51m signing of Haaland on July 1 kickstarted a fruitful week of transfers at the Etihad.
On the very same day, former Arminia Bielefeld goalkeeper Stefan Ortega joined on a free transfer, before Leeds midfielder and England international Kalvin Phillips signed in a deal worth £45m three days later.
Striker and January addition Julian Alvarez, who spent the remainder of the campaign on loan at River Plate, has been a regular feature for Guardiola in pre-season, capitalising on Haaland’s need to miss the first match and build up fitness.
Erling Haaland netted his first goal for Manchester City with the winner against Bayern Munich
Man City’s decision to operate without a recognised striker for the most part of last season divided opinion amongst fans and pundits, as Foden, De Bruyne and Gundogan took turns playing the false nine role in attack.
Haaland’s arrival at the Etihad is set to alter Guardiola’s tactical approach, as his midfielders and wingers will likely be tasked with feeding the Norwegian regular chances, rather than working space to carve out opportunities of their own.
Excluding former Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski, who scored 67 goals in a century of appearances under the Spanish head coach, Guardiola has almost never managed a striker with Haaland’s target man profile, having opted predominantly for swift and nimble forwards throughout his managerial career.
England star Kalvin Phillips made the switch from Leeds to the Etihad for £45m this summer
With the ex-Borussia Dortmund star now leading the line, Man City will look to use the wealth of creative talents they have in midfield to draw out defenders and make space for Haaland in and around the penalty box.
Following the departure of club legend Fernandinho to Athletico Paranaense, the champions recruited Phillips to bolster their options in defensive midfield, with the England star likely to deputise for anchor Rodri at the start of the season.
Liverpool have also blossomed without a recognised target man in recent seasons, with most of their goals coming from Salah and Sadio Mane in wide areas.
Klopp now has a traditional No 9 in Nunez to add to Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota
Although Roberto Firmino excelled in the false nine position for several seasons, Diogo Jota has pumped a lethal goal-scoring streak into Liverpool’s front three since arriving at Anfield. Still, he would not be classed as a traditional striker.
With Nunez joining the fold, Klopp has added yet another goalscorer to his richly- talented camp. The Uruguayan will be expected to run in behind rather than drop off like Firmino does, playing with a shoot-first mentality as Liverpool look to put teams to the sword.
Finally, the additions of Fabio Carvalho from Fulham and Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen will boost the youth of Klopp’s squad and gives the Reds two more exciting prospects alongside Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott.
Impact of exits
Despite purchasing a set of shiny new toys, both Man City and Liverpool have lost key long-serving players ahead of the new season.
Raheem Sterling, who joined City in 2015 and made 337 appearances for the club, left the Etihad to join top six rivals Chelsea for £50m.
Practically replenishing the fee they paid for Haaland, City were satisfied to let Sterling exit, even though the England international contributed 131 goals and 94 assists in seven seasons.
Raheem Sterling moved to Chelsea after scoring 131 goals in 337 appearances for Man City
Sterling scored 13 goals for the champions in just 23 league starts last season and was the second highest Man City scorer behind De Bruyne in the Premier League.
The England star was also arguably the club’s fastest athlete in attacking areas, not shy of picking up the ball and knocking the ball past defences to exploit the space in behind.
While it is too early to tell whether Guardiola will miss this trait next season – as Haaland also excels at running beyond defences – Sterling did offer a different dynamic to the likes of Grealish, Mahrez and Foden out wide.
Gabriel Jesus has excelled in pre-season for Arsenal since completing his £45m this summer
Oleksandr Zinchenko also teamed up with Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, leaving Guardiola with no senior left-footed full-back at City
The champions have also waved goodbye to Brazilian hitman Gabriel Jesus, who reunited with Mikel Arteta at Arsenal for £45m.
Despite playing second fiddle to Sergio Aguero in his early Etihad years, Jesus still had a key squad role for Guardiola, scoring 41 Premier League goals during his first four seasons.
A shift of position out on to the right flank last campaign saw Jesus take up more of a creative role – the Brazilian produced his highest ever assists total (9) while also contributing eight goals to the side.
Finally, Oleksandr Zinchenko’s switch to Arsenal has left Man City thin at full-back ahead of next campaign.
Although he only played 15 times in the Premier League last season, the Ukrainian offered Guardiola a true left-footed option at left-back – a position mostly occupied by right-footed full-back Joao Cancelo – and the Spanish coach will seemingly need to find a new player to offer that extra width when required.
Arguably the highest-profile name to leave Anfield since Philippe Coutinho, Mane joined Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich for £35m this month to call an end to his fruitful six-year spell at Liverpool.
With 120 goals and 42 assists to his name in a Reds shirt, Mane exits Merseyside as one of Liverpool’s all-time greats during the Premier League era and it could take some adjusting for Klopp next season.
Bayern Munich star Sadio Mane called an end to his fruitful six-year spell at Liverpool in July
Fortunately for Liverpool fans, Luis Diaz looks like a ready-made replacement on the left flank, after instantly impressing with four goals and three assists in 11 starts since arriving in January.
The Reds have also sold two notable squad players in Neco Williams and Takumi Minamino – but the Anfield bosses have already plugged the void with like-for-like replacements in Ramsay and Carvalho.
Losing Divock Origi could decrease Liverpool’s threat off the bench – considering the number of significant goals he scored under Klopp during his four-year spell – but it is likely the attacking five of Salah, Nunez, Diaz, Jota and Firmino will be trusted to navigate the congested schedule.
Although graced with star talent, both sets of supporters have called for their clubs to invest more this summer, aware of apparent gaps in the squads ahead of next season.
Man City, in particular, are heading into Saturday’s Community Shield clash with a shortage of defenders – Laporte is still in recovery, Cancelo and Kyle Walker are the only senior full-backs in the squad, and Stones has only trained with the under-23s.
Nathan Ake, who has impressed in pre-season since being linked with a move to Chelsea, could be the favourite to partner Ruben Dias at the back in Laporte’s likely absence, but there still remains a number of question marks at the full-back spots.
The Spanish head coach faces a few headaches in defence ahead of the Community Shield
Youngsters Josh Wilson-Esbrand and Rico Lewis have featured for City at left and right-back, respectively, during pre-season, but Etihad fans have doubts over their reliability this early in the campaign.
Guardiola is no longer blessed with his veteran utility man Fernandinho, who was at times deployed at centre-back and right-back last season in order to cover for injuries or suspensions.
Liverpool made it clear after signing Ramsay that their transfer business was finished for the summer, put off by breaking the bank on another superstar as they did with Nunez in June.
Reds fans have called for more playmakers to aid Thiago and Jordan Henderson in midfield
Eagerly looking for ways their side could get the better of City in the title race, several Reds supporters have implored the Anfield directors to bolster the midfield ahead of next campaign.
Still stocked with Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara, James Milner and Naby Keita – as well as young stars Jones and Elliott – Liverpool have plenty of options to choose from in the engine room, but fans have often wondered how destructive they would be with another playmaker pulling the strings.
The Community Shield, if nothing else, is the perfect opportunity to see how the two title rivals are shaping up ahead of the new campaign, both in terms of new signings and tactical approaches.