If history is to provide any insight into Saturday's Community Shield match between Manchester United and Chelsea, the game will be more about early season confidence than a guide to who will lift the Premiership trophy.
|Whilst Nani and Hargreaves won't feature, |
Rooney will likely start [AFP]
The traditional season-opener between the English league champions and FA Cup holders has become something of a poisoned chalice with the winner of the match only going on to lift the Premiership trophy once in the past ten years.
Liverpool won last year's match against Chelsea 2-1, before going on to a trophy-less season. While the Blues went on to win the FA Cup and League Cup.
Some of the gloss has come off the match with both sides missing several of their stars.
United will be without captain Gary Neville and strikers Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because of injuries.
The trio missed a pre-season tour of Asia - Neville with an ankle problem, and Saha and Solskjaer because of knee injuries - and may not even recover in time for United's August 12 Premier League opener against Reading.
"Those lads are still not ready," manager Alex Ferguson said.
"We are looking at a couple of weeks for the three of them."
Injury cloud descends
Chelsea are also struggling to have a clean bill of health, with 12 players carrying injuries or out of action.
The London club has had a gruelling jet-setting pre-season schedule that has included games in the US, Scotland and Denmark.
While Claude Makelele, Michael Essien, John Terry, Arjen Robben, Andriy Shevchenko and Lassana Diarra were expected to return to training and could feature Sunday, left back Wayne Bridge is sidelined until November because of a hip injury.
Midfielder Michael Ballack is also a likely absentee from the start of the season after having surgery on an ankle injury for a second time during the offseason.
It all points to some of Chelsea's summer acquisitions making an early bow for their new club.
Former Reading player Steve Sidwell looks likely to find himself in a midfield missing Michael Essien and Claude Makelele appearing impressing against Glasgow Rangers.
"I wanted to show the boss that I can stand out," Sidwell said.
"He's got confidence in putting me into games and throwing me in at the deep end, so it was nice for me to get a good performance under my belt, and hopefully it will plant a seed in his memory."
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Chelsea's other free signings, Claudio Pizarro and Tal Ben Haim, could also make their full debuts for the club.
While Chelsea had a relatively quiet summer spending just $27 million to acquire winger Florent Malouda from Lyon, United were back to their free spending best as they churned through $102 million with more to come should the Carlos Tevez saga reach its natural end before the transfer window closes.
England midfielder Owen Hargreaves, Portugal winger Nani and Brazil's Anderson have bolstered a United squad that defied preseason predictions by denying Chelsea a third straight Premier League title.
However, it is unlikely that any of the new signings will make an appearance on Sunday with Nani suffering from an ankle injury and Hargreaves and Anderson likely to play in friendlies on Friday and Saturday.
Same old faces
Ferguson has hinted his line up will be the same as the one that played Inter Milan.
That side saw John O'Shea partnering Michael Carrick in central midfield, and Wayne Rooney up front supported by Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs.
United is winless in its last four matches with Chelsea, although the last three meetings have been drawn.
Neutrals will simply be hoping for a more exciting match than last years soporific FA Cup final, which failed to live up to any of it's pre game billing.
Whatever the result, both sides will fancy their chances of returning next year as reigning Premier League champions, whether or not history is on their side.