The first piece of silverware is set to be handed out at Wembley this weekend, and after last season’s achievements, there could barely be a more fitting curtain-raiser than Manchester City v Liverpool.
The winners of the domestic treble versus the European champions, and two teams who, over the last couple of seasons, have recorded the three highest points totals in English top flight history.
While Man City have been the country’s dominant team, Liverpool have led the chasing pack and kept Guardiola’s side on their toes. It was Liverpool who ended Man City’s hopes of an unbeaten 2017/18 season, before sending the runaway league leaders crashing out of the Champions League during the same season.
But despite Liverpool delivering the best league season in their history by a number of measures, Man City were strong enough to earn a second successive league title on the last day of the season, before rounding off an unprecedented clean sweep of domestic trophies a week later in the FA Cup final.
It’s almost impossible to imagine both sides repeating the same league performance again this season, and likely that at least one or two of the other top six teams of last season will present a greater a challenge in the year ahead, particularly with some big money signings demonstrating a clear intention to try and reach the standards set by last season’s top two.
As for Sunday, it is a difficult match to call, with last season’s league fixtures both closely-contested, although both teams can point to a big recent win over their rival.
The margin of Man City’s 5-0 win over Liverpool in September 2017 was possibly influenced by the first half red card for Sadio Mane, although even with 11 players, Liverpool looked out of their depth on that occasion.
But the reverse was true for long periods of the two meetings at Anfield later in the same season, and Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Man City in their Champions League quarter final first leg was particularly impressive.
What is true is that both managers have contributed to raising the standard required to be successful in English football, and with Man City taking home all of the domestic trophies, it was pleasing that an exceptional season for Liverpool also saw them lift a trophy.
But while Man City will once again be favourites to claim English and European football’s most sought-after trophies, in head-to-head between the managers, noone has been more successful than Klopp at getting the better of Pep Guadiola.
During three years at Bayern Munich, during which Klopp was at Borussia Dortmund for the first two seasons, Guardiola won just four of the eight matches in which the pair faced each other, with Dortmund winning the other four – including two of the three matches in which silverware was on offer.
Since moving to England in 2016, Guardiola has struggled even more against Klopp’s Liverpool team, with Man City winning just two from eight matches against the Reds.
However, the Community Shield represents the first time that the two rivals will compete for silverware on English soil and although both teams will have their eyes on biggest prizes during the season ahead, there will undoubtedly be some satisfaction in claiming a Wembley victory.
In addition to the quality of their team, Man City will go into the match with far more experience of playing for trophies in front of a big crowd at the country’s national stadium. Klopp’s previous two Wembley finals have seen him lose to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and to Man City on penalties in the 2016 League Cup final.
With a different personal outcome for the German on Sunday, it will send out an early message that his Liverpool team once again mean business. But whichever side comes out on top, there promises to be bigger battles ahead for two clubs whose growing rivalry looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.