Manchester City and Chelsea’s meeting in the Community Shield brings together two coaches who hold a deep mutual admiration for one another.
Pep Guardiola labelled Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli one of the best sides in Europe last season as City shared a pair of thrilling Champions League group matches against the Serie A side, winning 2-1 in Manchester and 4-2 in Naples.
Napoli’s swashbuckling attempts to unseat Juventus domestically persuaded Chelsea to make Sarri their sixth Italian boss when Antonio Conte’s inevitable departure arrived at the start of pre-season.
The FA Cup holders face Premier League champions City in English football’s traditional season curtain-raiser at Wembley on Sunday, but Guardiola and Sarri have already found time to acquaint themselves over a dinner date with ex-Italy boss Arrigo Sacchi during their vacations.
“Arrigo Sacchi invited him and myself and we were together for dinner in Italy,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. “And Arrigo Sacchi paid the bill!”
It was Guardiola left paying the price when Sarri’s arrival at Stamford Bridge proved a factor in Italy international Jorginho choosing to join Chelsea, despite City’s own lengthy pursuit of the holding midfielder.
Jorginho is expected to line up at England’s national stadium this weekend, where City’s record signing Riyad Mahrez will be available after shaking off an ankle injury.
“Yes, we were close but in the end Jorginho decided to stay with Maurizio,” said Guardiola, who has welcomed all of his World Cup stars back to training, with the exception of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
“I said before, I want players who want to come here. He didn’t want to come. Maybe it was a little bit late to announce that [he didn’t want to join City] but if you decide you don’t come, don’t come.
“Good luck at Chelsea and in English football we are going to discover an exceptional holding midfielder.”
The real treat for English football as far as Guardiola is concerned, however, is the presence of Sarri.
Recent friendly matches have convinced the 47-year-old his opposite number has already imprinted his style on the Chelsea squad – meaning a match where the post-World Cup line-ups are set to vary in strength may provide more entertainment than anticipated.
“I’m happy that a manger of that level is here in the Premier League. I am going to learn a lot to see him every weekend,” Guardiola added.
“Being here I feel we are going to improve a lot [because of] his ideas in England.
“I saw the games against Inter and Arsenal and immediately I saw he got it, he did it. The team already in a short time play like he wants.
“Of course, they need more time to work on everything but the ideas are already there. I think it will be a good game.”
Manchester City summer signing Riyad Mahrez is available after overcoming the ankle injury he sustained last weekend.
Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are the only players not to return to the group after the World Cup, with Guardiola planning to go on condition over quality.
England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned to full Chelsea training this week and could feature, while Willian has now returned from his extended break.
Callum Hudson-Odoi looks set to continue on the left of a front three following his impressive performance against Arsenal in midweek.
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