Dubai: We are back.
80,000 fans at Wembley are back.
Football is back.
While some may see the Community Shield as a glorified friendly, it means everything to the two teams involved.
Last year, Manchester City dismantled a new-hope Chelsea and then went on to deny Liverpool the title in what was the tightest of title races England has ever seen.
This time around, they are up against the best of the best.
Jurgen Klopp has an able squad who have won the European Cup - again.
But Pep Guardiola is well aware of the challenge likely to be posed by Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s men lost only once in the league last season - at City - and erased the frustration of failing to catch Guardiola’s team by beating Tottenham to win the club’s sixth European Cup in June.
Despite a spat between the pair this week when Guardiola hit back at Klopp’s jibe over City’s big spending on transfers in recent years, the Spaniard remains a huge admirer of the Liverpool boss and the team he has built at Anfield.
“He inspires me in many things. He is a class manager, a top manager. He’s so good and it is an incredible challenge for me every time I face his teams,” Guardiola said.
Guardiola’s irritation at Klopp’s suggestion that City are one of a handful of clubs who live in a transfer “fantasy land” lit the fuse on what promises to be a fascinating 10-month battle for supremacy between City and Liverpool.
With City yet to win the Champions League and Liverpool without an English title since 1990, it is possible they would gladly settle for a trophy-swap this season.
But Guardiola knows Community Shield holders City could become the first team to win three consecutive Premier League titles since Manchester United between 2006 and 2009, so he won’t settle for only targeting European glory.
“We won almost every trophy; not all of them. It was quite remarkable,” he said of last season.
“We start from zero now - we start again - but we are ready to accept the challenge.”
Twelve months ago, Guardiola warned of a need to guard against complacency after City’s record 100-point haul in 2017-18. But this year, he is taking a softer approach after being impressed with his players’ maturity under intense pressure from Liverpool.
“We will be nicer this season. These players convinced me with what they did last season. There are no doubts,” said Guardiola,
Pep Guardiola’s title winners left Liverpool as the bridesmaids as we head into Sunday’s Community Shield clash.
Wembley stadium will be packed but are we looking at a match heavily weighed in relevance for one team - rather than the other?
- With inputs from agencies
Catch the match
Manchester City vs Liverpool
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London, 6 pm kick-off
Live telecast on BeIn Sports