Not all friendlies are created equal.
First there were two appearances in Scotland, one of which the Citizens were pilloried for on their way out the door. In fairness, City were not particularly convincing in either of those exhibitions.
Then there was the champions-against-champions clash with Sporting Kansas City. In that showdown between the Premier League titleholders and Major League Soccer's reigning side, the disparity in quality between the leagues and the teams was fully in evidence.
While there will be occasional blips in the pattern, a Premier League champion will ordinarily handle an MLS winner comfortably if the EPL side takes the match seriously.
City then made their debut in the Guinness International Champions Cup. Despite never losing in regulation time, City found themselves left out of the Cup final after two shootout defeats to Liverpool and Olympiacos. Which may have been just as well, since the final came two days after the Olympiacos loss.
Besides, it's only right to throw poor Manchester United the occasional table scrap these days. Without Champions League football to play, United are going to have to treat any silver that comes their way with reverence and appreciation.
Except for Alvaro Negredo's metatarsal injury (which will sideline him into October), City weathered the fairly aggressive summer schedule quite well from an injury standpoint. Frankly, jettisoning Jack Rodwell to Sunderland was addition by subtraction in that regard. Rodwell seemed to spend more time in City's trainer's room than most of the club's medical staff.
So City boss Manuel Pellegrini has one more exhibition match to push through before the Premier League season—and City's now annual chases after four trophies—make every result all too real.
Ordinarily the sage play for Pellegrini would be to rest anyone that City is apt to rely on beginning with the league opener at Newcastle United on Aug. 17.
Again, though, this is not just another friendly. City did not find their way into the Community Shield through a corporate branding initiative or in hopes of developing a following abroad.
City are part of this year's Community Shield match on merit as defending Premier League champions. And unlike other years where, say, a Wigan Athletic or some other lesser side are the FA Cup holders, City have been paired with a formidable Arsenal side in this installment of the Community Shield.
The match will be played at Wembley Stadium before what promises to be a throaty, passionate throng. With the league season just a week away after this match kicks off, neither side will want to end their summer with a losing performance.
And, in case you forgot, City and Arsenal will face each other in a Premier League tilt at the Emirates on Sep. 13.
So the Community Shield is a friendly, and friendly results do not much matter, and the most important thing is giving a credible showing and getting out unscathed by injury. All that is true most of the time.
But Pellegrini and City are almost certainly going to play this match to win it, for all the reasons set forth above.
N.B. Matija Nastasic would absolutely have been in this XI if it were not for the fact that City are apparently trying to sell him. In fact, Arsenal are among the interested suitors for Nastasic, which is yet another reason not to see him feature in this match.
City's predicted XI against Arsenal in the Community Shield: Joe Hart; Aleksandar Kolarov, Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany, Gael Clichy; Samir Nasri, Fernando, Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas; Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic.
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