Are you a fan of drawing hasty conclusions based on little evidence? Then boy do we have a treat for you as Liverpool and Manchester City meet in the Community Shield – the glorified kickabout that heralds the return of top-flight football every August.
Tea leaves will be read, forecasts will be made and judgements cast, but for Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp today’s game is an exercise in fine-tuning before the real stuff begins next week.
It is at least another instalment in a smouldering, very modern, rivalry between the clubs, who went stride for stride from December onwards in the league last season before City prevailed on the final day.
Perhaps it lacked the edge and jeopardy of the truly great tussles, like those between Manchester United and Arsenal at the turn of the century, but these things take time.
Guardiola certainly seems keen to stoke the fires, regularly hinting that large sections of ‘the media’ are partial in Liverpool’s favour and this week questioning why no member of City’s four Premier League winning teams had won the PFA Player of the Year award.
City took this fixture seriously last year when they dismantled Chelsea in a 2-0 win that could easily have been five or six.
It will be a bit of a patchwork City team today, with Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus only returning to training this week after international exertions, while Ederson, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez were given extra time off.
Liverpool have suffered from limited availability in pre-season too, with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah only reporting back at the start of this week. They did both feature against Lyon though, so could play a part at Wembley. Sadio Mane is not back until tomorrow.
The European champions had a season for the ages last year and it still wasn’t enough for a first league title in 30 years. How do they close the gap? It looks an almighty task, but hope springs from the return of Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the prospect of a more settled and consistent Naby Keita.
Full team news on the way shortly.