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Community Shield perfect BPL preview

THEYâ¿¿RE BACK!
English soccer returns Sunday when Man City take on Chelsea in the Community Shield.
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Rob Stone

A 15-year broadcast veteran, Rob Stone is the lead host for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday and UEFA Champions League coverage. Follow him on Twitter.

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It’s easy to write off the Community Shield as a game that “doesn’t matter.” But when reigning Barclay’s Premier League champions Manchester City face FA Cup winners Chelsea this Sunday live on FOX Soccer (8:30 AM ET) there is much more to it than just a pre-season get together.

This match is like the final dress rehearsal before the big show — the opening weekend of the BPL. Fans are going to get a final look at what they can expect for the opening half of their club’s campaign.

For Manchester City, you are pretty much getting what you saw last season. I think there’s a mentality with some of the people there that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But you can’t be content in any league with a title; you always have to improve and tinker to get better.

City hasn’t done that yet – “yet” being the operative word. Teams love to build up that transfer drama to the very end, so it’s possible we’ll see them make late signings.

However, if they don’t reload their squad, I still think they’ll be all right. City are still in the upper echelon of not only England, but of the Champions League conversation as well.

Remember, they went through so much of the season without some very key players. The Carlos Tevez saga, what Mario Balotelli did (or didn’t) bring to the season, along with some injuries that prevented City from being a true full squad. If you’re a 'half-full' type of fan, you can look at it as getting these guys back for the whole campaign, is an addition to the team.

Chelsea, on the other hand, hasn’t really gotten the results they wanted in pre-season. Despite that, they seem to be happy with where they are. They’ve gone out and made the moves to state that they are a top three team in the Premiership heading into this season—the Eden Hazard signing alone will come off as the coup from this transfer window.

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So, the Community Shield will be a nice barometer to see where these two teams really are. Sure, it doesn’t matter in the standings, but it does help to have winning momentum heading into a very important campaign.

While this upcoming match will offer a glimpse into what two of the top three Premier League teams will look like for the 2012-13 season, what about the third, Manchester United? How have the English soccer giants fared as we approach the start of the BPL?

Not so well.

The Red Devils have scored just three goals in their pre-season tour. Three! While they’re not hitting the panic button just yet, they know exactly where it’s located. (Hint, London).

They’ve been shut out their last two games. And yes, United can look at their opponents, and their travel (South Africa, China, Norway, Sweden,) and the Euro 2012/Olympic load on some of their players. But at some point they have to say to themselves, “We are good enough, but we’re missing that fire. We’re missing that move to tell our fans—and our team—that we are serious.”

Where might that boost come from? Maybe United should take a page out of the Denver Broncos’ playbook.

The Broncos were feeling like they had a pretty good team. Then they went out and got Peyton Manning, and now they feel like they’re a Super Bowl contender because they made the big signing to get them to the ‘Holy Grail’ for this season.

This year, Robin Van Persie is the Peyton Manning of the Barclay’s Premiership. He’s that kind of guy who can change things, and shake up the standings for multiple teams, just like that.

If the Red Devils can sign RVP, that’s a statement. That’s them saying, look we’re still Manchester United. Yes, Real Madrid, PSG, Manchester City and Chelsea can go out and do these big signings and everybody focuses the attention on them. Guess what? United can still do that too. They’re still the giants, and can splash that cash when it is necessary.

Van Persie is without a doubt a hot ticket during this transfer window. The question on everyone’s mind is, “Where will the Arsenal star land?” But what gets lost in this conversation is how this is affecting the Gunners.

For the entirety of the transfer window to this point, Arsenal’s name has been out there in all the papers, but they haven’t done anything significant yet. And it’s because of RVP. It’s blinding everybody’s view of what Arsenal has done in the off-season. It’s to the point where they need to do something, because it’s going to start to become disadvantageous to them because the speculation is just going to continue.

Arsenal and RVP need to come to a resolution. That’s what’s best for the club. Either someone’s going to meet their price, or they need to make an effort to re-sign him. Maybe sign some other players to make him happy—to show that Arsenal is for real. Right now I don’t think they’re in the top three. They’re lucky if they’re even in the top five conversation right now, and that’s just not good enough for the Gunners.

While Arsenal is struggling to resolve the RVP situation, there is one other Premiership player on the move that everyone is buzzing about: Fulham’s Clint Dempsey.

Dempsey has yet to make the jump to a bigger club, but I think he has the potential to do something for American soccer that hasn’t been done yet. And that’s going to a big club with a big price tag and making an impact for them—seeing Clint Dempsey jerseys floating around town in a major metropolis. Yes, he has that at Fulham in London, but I think this would be at another level.

Clint and his advisors know that they need to do the proper move where he is in this stage, because this is kind of his last big payday. He has got to capitalize right now off of what he did for Fulham—not only for himself, but for American soccer abroad.

One of the big clubs Dempsey has been linked strongly with is Liverpool—but no deal has been done.

So far during this transfer window, Liverpool has done some things that certainly have helped the team, and they’ve kept their finances in check, but I don’t think the Reds fans are storming the gates and saying, “This is our season!”

Maybe they’ve got a shot at sneaking in and making the Champions League. They’ve got a shot at FA Cup and disrupting the Premiership, but I don’t think any realistic, clear-thinking Liverpool fan is claiming they’re a top three team in the Premiership right now.

But there’s so much that’s going to happen between now and the start of the season that it’s hard to really judge them at the moment. Realistically, it’s hard to fully judge any of the teams until we start to see them in action.

We’ll get a little preview on Sunday, but the real fun begins the following weekend. I hope you’re ready for the ride.

While we weren't on the subject......

I spent 24 hours in the desert this week. When it's 10pm and your bare feet are burning on the pavement, you know it’s hot. While I didn't run into Jim Morrison, I did have the following heat-induced visions come to me.

- the BCS and MLB champs this season will come from the West coast.

- I have a badddd feeling about Britney and Katy Perry's new beaus.

- Pearl Jam will get their "Ten" mojo back… briefly

- the BPL will once again come down to Survival Sunday

You can always ask me a question via my Twitter account @RobStoneonFOX using the hash tag #askStone. Each week I’ll pick a few and we’ll give you a shout-out right here. Enjoy the game this week and I’ll see you right here on FOX Soccer next week as we raise the curtain!

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