After a long summer of waiting, Chelsea are finally back in competitive action on Sunday, as they face Arsenal at Wembley. The champions take on the FA Cup winners in the traditional opener to the season, but recent events have raised the temperature ahead of the game.
Petr Cech’s move to Arsenal in the summer was bad enough for the Stamford Bridge faithful to take, but even worse after they realised that he’d be making his debut against them. It’s hard to know how the fans will react, but you have to question the club’s thinking about strengthening a major rival.
Cech’s move does make Arsene Wenger’s side a real title threat now. They’ve plugged their major weakness from the last few years, and added a player who has experience of winning things at the highest level. Can he inspire them to a win on Sunday? Jose Mourinho will certainly be hoping he won’t.
On top of that, the recent war of words between Mourinho and Wenger has heightened the intense build up. The Portuguese has been taking shots at the Frenchman and Rafa Benitez like he’s rereleasing some greatest hits. He openly criticised Wenger’s spending in recent years and what it’s returned them, which does feel a tad hypocritical coming from a man who has spent big since first coming to Stamford Bridge in 2004.
It’s quite likely that he’s fully aware of that. Someone as smart as Jose doesn’t just forget how much their squad cost. His plan was probably to take up headlines, to avoid talking about how his team have struggled in preseason, and the lack of signings that have arrived this summer. Taking the pressure of his team is something the manager does very well, and it worked again this time.
Hopefully, that helps them go on to beat the Gunners on Sunday. Mourinho has an unbeaten record against Wenger, and he’ll be looking to keep that up. While he may not have the Community Shield down as a priority, we’ve rarely seen Jose turn his nose down at a trophy. He counted his 2005 shield win over Arsenal when he spoke about his medals from his first spell, so he does take it seriously.
Because of that, we expect a full strength team on Sunday, which will pretty much be the 11 that started most of last season. Don’t expect any new recruits to start, they should kick off the season on the bench. While there may not be any new names there, it’s still the side who won the league last season with room to spare, now armed with a little more experience.
We think that team will have enough to overcome Arsenal once more, kicking off the season with a victory and another trophy. While it hopefully won’t be a season highlight, a win here would be a great marker to set for the coming campaign.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1