Back-to-back FA Cup winner Arsenal and defending Premier League champion Chelsea unofficially kick off the season when the two London rivals meet in the Community Shield on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
Both clubs enter the match with an understandably high level of confidence. The Gunners have had an excellent preseason run and with basically the same roster as last season. The Blues look to get their title defense on the right track with hopes of back-to-back championships for the first time since 2006, and made some solid upgrades in the attack.
Though the match holds no significance on Premier League play, which begins on Aug. 8, bragging rights and a significant amount of confidence are on the line heading into the English season.
The ongoing verbal battles between Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho often capture much of the media focus, and this year is no different.
Mourinho’s never lost to Wenger in 13 career matches, but the Portuguese decided not to harp over his well-documented record against Wenger, and instead focused on his squad and their development.
"I just want my teams, my clubs to try to get the best possible results. That's the only thing that matters,” Mourinho told reporters Friday. "Doesn't matter Arsenal, doesn't matter the manager. In football you can win or lose or draw. In this case you have to be ready for everything.
"I never made my victories over Arsenal an explosion of happiness or special pride. I will not make a drama if one day we lose.
"But we always try to play for a result and the Community Shield has a motivation, obviously different than just a friendly or just a summer tournament. I would say it's the start of the competition."
The Blues wrapped up International Champions Cup play earlier this week after beating treble-owners Barcelona 2-2 (4-2) on penalties, but the match could’ve proven costly before the Shield with forward Diego Costa suffering a hamstring strain and defender Gary Cahill a bloody nose after he headed in the equalizer that ultimately forced the shootout.
But Mourinho assured reporters both stars are expected to play against Arsenal.
Wenger for the most part parried Mourinho’s barbs about Arsenal’s transfer spending over the last few years, and rather than get caught up in their rivalry he relished in the new agreements the Gunners reached with midfielder Santi Cazorla and winger Theo Walcott.
But he did stress the competition will be high and neither side figures to hold back, even if only an exhibition.
"You know, it will not be a friendly, because it is just like that -- and it is good like that,'' Wenger said. "That's part of our game now -- you have to accept that every game is judged as though it's definite.
"But you know in real life it is not like that.
"The tribunal is out there and we'll draw conclusions from Sunday, but no matter if it's positive or negative we have to continue on our way and focus on ourselves.''
Cazorla’s eight goals and 15 assists last term were a big reason behind Arsenal’s third-place finish in Premier League, while Walcott struggled with injury but netted five goals in 14 total matches. Yet securing their signatures will firm up a squad that has made only one addition on the transfer market, former Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
The Czech refused to sit another year behind Thibaut Courtois, and now replaces Wojciech Szczesny as the Emirates top keeper. The 33-year-old Cech started his first match in his new kit and picked up a clean sheet in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over a difficult Wolfsburg side.
Start Time: Sunday, 10 a.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
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