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August 4, 2007

Summer’s officially over! Tevez maybe training with the Red Devils but one thing for sure, the traditional season curtain-raiser is finally upon us. Just one week before the opening fixtures of the new Premiership season, current champions, Manchester United and FA Cup holders, Chelsea, face each other in the pre-season taster, the Community Shield, taking place at Wembley for the first time in seven years. A first for the New Wembley.

Since 1908, the fixture has brought together the English FA Cup and Premier League winners from the previous season, but in recent years, the exhibition match has gradually lost its relevance.

With schedules already bursting with Premiership, Champions League and other domestic Cup commitments, the Community Shield is barely more relevant than the financially lucrative pre-season global tours that precede it.

Though the throphy itself has little weight, any competitive meeting between Man Utd and Chelsea will be a red-blooded affair, and the game should also provide football fans with the first glimpse of some of the most expensive new additions to the Premier League.

Andriy Shevchenko scored on his competitive debut for Chelsea in this game last season, but that much vaunted first appearance proved a false down, as the Ukrainian struggled to adapt to the Premiership. Jose Mourinho paid a Premiership record tranfser fee for Shevy, and made Micheal Ballack the league’s highest earner, but neither came close to justifying their enormous price tags. Despite rumours suggesting both might move on after just one campaign, they remain at the club, though Ballack is currently recovering from ankle surgery.

This minimal return from the duo has prompted a far more frugal summer of transfer business at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho has however picked up Steve Sidwell, signed from Reading on a free transfer; former Bayern Munich and current Peruvian internatonal, Claude Pizarro and France’s Florent Malouda to make this midfeild selection process much harder. Ex-Bolton defender, Tal Ben Haim will be providing competition for Ricardo Carvalho, to play alongside John Terry in defence.

Sir Alex Ferguson has been the most active Premiership manager of the transfer market spending around £55million to bring in Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich, along with two young exciting attacking prospects. Brazilian midfielder, Anderson, joins from Porto while Portuguese winger, Nani, has transferred from Sporting Lisbon; both bring the promise of replicating Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact on the division. And not forgeting,the imminent arrival of Carlos Tevez who arguably kept West Ham up last season.

While Hargreaves and Tevez are expected to be a first-team regular, Nani and Anderson will probably be used more sparingly, even though established attacking playes, Louis Saha and Park Ji-Sung, will both be unavailable for this game because of injury.

Manchester United hold the record for the most wins in the Community Shield (11) against Chelsea’s three,and 2002 wasthe only year since 1995 that neither contested in.

Interestingly the Red Devils have made seven appearances during that time, but the 4-0 win over Blackburn in ’96 was the only time they won in 90 minutes.

United’s recent record against Chelsea is also poor, with just one win in the last 11 meetings, against six for the blues. This game is of course a re-run of last season’s FA Cup, which looked all set to be going to penalties until Didier Drogba scored after 116 minutes, providing some revenge for United poaching their Premier League title.

Though the fixture is muc maligned it has at least been entertainning in recent seasons, producing over 2.5 goals on the last three occasions and if it is a stalemate after 90 minutes, the format dictates that it reverts directly to penalties.

WDFK’s pick? Too close to call – DRAW 0-0 or 1-1.

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