Last Sunday’s Community Shield clash between Manchester City and Liverpool reaffirmed many an educated hunch that last season’s title duelists will again be biting at each other’s heels at the summit of the English Premier League table this term.
The season curtain-raiser is rarely a reliable barometer of battles to come, but both sides put on such a superb show at Wembley that, barring some sensational business before Thursday’s transfer deadline, it’s safe to expect Pep Guardiola’s City slickers will retain their crown, with Jurgen Klopp’s relentless Reds not far behind.
Of the chasing pack, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur look to have the most convincing claims to third spot.
Much is being made of the arrival at United of Harry Maguire, and rightly so.
Maguire became something of a cult hero during England’s World Cup campaign last summer, with his gladiatorial presence, commanding aerial ability and penchant for a goal or two reminiscent of throwback centerbacks like Tony Adams.
Maguire’s distribution is not too shabby either, although people should take Guardiola’s claim that he can turn United into a title contender with a large pinch of salt.
In the All or Nothing documentary of City’s 2107-18 league-winning campaign, Guardiola is shown telling Kevin De Bruyne to target the then Leicester man, instructing: “Find that situation because the guy is not fast … you will find space here.”
At 80 million pounds ($97 million), Maguire has inherited Virgil van Dijk’s mantel as the world’s most expensive defender. But regardless of price, Liverpool still possesses the world’s best defender in this year’s Ballon d’Or favorite van Dijk.