AND just like that, the new season is upon us.
Less than 10 weeks after Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title in dramatic circumstances, the two sides come up against one another in the Community Shield.
In the lead-up to this curtain raiser at the King Power Stadium, both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have embarked on their annual shopping trips in a bid to bolster their squads ahead of another demanding campaign.
Man City welcome four new faces into their star-studded set-up.
Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips and River Plate forward Julian Alvarez are sure to have a positive impact, while keeper Stefan Ortega will act as back-up to No1 Ederson.
But it is superstar Erling Haaland who promises to capture everyone's attention from the first minute on Saturday afternoon.
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The 22-year-old Norwegian arrives at the Etihad having scored a breathtaking 86 goals in 89 appearances for Borussia Dortmund.
And in his first game in a City shirt, the ex-RB Salzburg man needed just 12 minutes to find the back of the net as he netted the winner against Bayern Munich in a pre-season friendly.
But while Sky Blues supporters will be overcome with excitement at the prospect of Haaland's Community Shield debut, a similar set of emotions will be directed towards Darwin Nunez from Liverpool fans.
The Uruguayan is the Reds' club record signing after joining from Benfica in a deal worth up to £85million.
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And if the red half of Merseyside weren't excited enough about his 34 goals last season, then they would have been after watching him hit four in a phenomenal 42-minute spell against RB Leipzig.
Liverpool have also brought in Fulham playmaker Fabio Carvalho and Aberdeen right-back Calvin Ramsey – but it is Nunez who will play the lead role this weekend.
It is difficult not to be drawn into a Haaland vs Nunez debate ahead of Saturday's meeting – even with the plethora of talent on show.
Liverpool are missing keeper Alisson and forward Diogo Jota for the clash with City.
Meanwhile, Guardiola will have to deal without Aymeric Laporte for the beginning of the campaign as it was revealed on Friday that he will be sidelined until September after undergoing knee surgery.
But both teams remain confident they can topple the other to secure the first silverware of the campaign.
City have won just three of their previous 13 meetings against Liverpool – a run which stretches back to January 2018.
But Klopp is yet to win the Community Shield during his seven-year spell at Anfield, losing both the 2019 and 2020 finals on penalties to Arsenal and City.
So there is tangible evidence which can lead to making a case for either side.
Most of the time, it is a misconception to believe the Community Shield result correlates to the outcome of the Premier League.
In fact, 10 of the last 11 Community Shield winners have gone on to miss out on the title later that season – with City the only exception in 2018/19.
However, given the recent history between these two teams, it feels as though an early psychological blow can be struck at the King Power.
And with a lengthy break coming into force in mid-November due to the World Cup, a fast start could prove more crucial than ever.
City were caught napping at the start of last season as they dropped 10 points from their opening 10 games – a record out of the ordinary for Guardiola's side.
It was an unconvincing stall out of the blocks which ultimately almost cost them the title as Liverpool came back like a train after Christmas and nearly caught them down the stretch.
Klopp will be hoping City make the same mistakes again – as they did 12 months ago when Leicester beat them 1-0 in the final.
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Either way, it promises to be an entertaining spectacle – with the match taking place away from Wembley for the first time in a decade as the Women's Euros final takes precedent on the Sunday.
These two teams have shared 33 goals in their last nine meetings, so it has all the makings of another City-Liverpool classic.
But who lifts the trophy may well be decided by the Premier League's two newest star strikers.
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