Fans of the English Premier League are buzzing with anticipation as we get closer to the kick-off of the 2014/15 season. As is traditional, the campaign will start off with a bang, with Arsenal and Manchester City battling it out for the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Both clubs enjoyed strong 2013-14 campaigns and added to their deep squads over the summer, and fans will get to witness one of the most exciting Community Shield matchups in recent memory when the Gunners and the Citizens take to the pitch.
As the season's opening match, Sunday's fixture will answer a lot of questions regarding two of the clubs who will be vying for the Premier League title in 2014-15. Let's look at some of the key matchups that will determine the outcome of this year's Community Shield.
Mathieu Debuchy vs. City's Left Wing
Welcome to the big leagues, Mathieu Debuchy.
In his very first competitive start for the Gunners, the French international will be tasked with containing one of the most dangerous groups of left-wingers in the entire Premier League. No pressure.
The Citizens gave most of their World Cup stars an extended break and won't be fielding their strongest XI against Arsenal on Sunday, as confirmed by coach Manuel Pellegrini during his pre-match presser: "All the players that arrive this Monday -- Demichelis, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Sagna, Fernandinho, Lampard and Aguero [will not play]. They have a special preseason this week and next week."
As a result, much uncertainty surrounds the team's starting lineup to face Arsenal, with one of the few certainties being left-back Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serb loves to surge forward, making overlapping runs to support whoever plays in front of him (most likely David Silva or Samir Nasri).
And with the squad looking very different from the one that won the Premier League title just a few months ago, Pellegrini will likely keep his system and tactics as simple as possible. That means lots of lateral passing and a heavy emphasis on wing play.
Debuchy is a quality right-back capable of holding his own against the very best, but unlike compatriot and former Gunner Bacary Sagna, his offensive game is stronger than his defensive contributions. If he tries to do too much in his first match for Arsenal, he could leave plenty of space for City to exploit.
If he wins the battle for his flank, however, the Gunners will take away one of City's biggest weapons and put themselves in an excellent position to win their first trophy of the season.
Yaya Toure vs. Arsenal's Surging Midfielders
Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis paired in the heart of Manchester City's defence last season, and neither will be playing on Sunday. The same goes for Fernandinho, meaning there's a good chance it will be new arrival Fernando starting next to Yaya Toure in midfield.
Toure played like a man among boys last season, and the Ivorian was easily one of the top players in the entire league. But the 2014 World Cup wasn't kind to the veteran midfielder, who needs another big season to bounce back from that disappointment.
He'll get his first chance on Sunday. Playing in front of a make-shift back four, and with a new partner, Toure will be tasked with breaking up Arsenal's attacking plays before they can develop.
The Gunners live and die by their running midfielders, and penetration football is exactly what we'll see against City. The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, and Tomas Rosicky (Mesut Ozil's likely replacement) thrive on forward runs into the heart of the defence, overloading the box and creating danger.
Even with Kompany and Demichelis starting, this would be difficult to contain for City. The likely duo of Matija Nastasic and Dedryck Boyata isn't anywhere near the quality of those two.
If Toure can establish his dominance over the midfield proceedings early, he'll shield the central duo from having to deal with too many players running at them all the time. If he fails, City's inexperienced defence could cost them big.