PRAGUE, Czech Republic, August 29 – Champions League winners Bayern Munich and Europa League holders Chelsea meet in the European Super Cup on Friday with the usually relaxed atmosphere surrounding the match spiced up as there are several scores to be settled.
Bayern still feel they should have won the Champions League a year earlier only to be beaten by Chelsea on penalties — even worse for the Germans was it came at their stadium, the Allianz Arena.
Chelsea’s manager at the time Roberto di Matteo is no longer there – he was sacked only a few months later and his replacement Rafael Benitez salvaged something from the season in landing the Europa League.
The present incumbent Jose Mourinho – Benitez’ spell as caretaker manager ended at the end of last season – will be eager to put one over Bayern’s coach Pep Guardiola, his nemesis from his days in Spain.
Barcelona under Guardiola outshone Mourinho’s Real Madrid, and the latter’s largely unhappy reign there came to an end at the end of last season.
That left the self-anointed ‘Special One’ needing to prove he has not lost his touch at delivering trophies, and where better to start than by beating his old rival in the process.
Guardiola for his part took a year out – stepping aside after Real ended Barcelona’s reign as champions in 2012 – and returned refreshed to take over a Bayern side that last season under Jupp Heynckes became the first German club to win the domestic double and the Champions League.
Guardiola, though, can deliver something that Bayern coaches have not managed and win the Super Cup after the club failed to do so on three previous occasions.
“It’s a unique chance for us players to win this trophy,” said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
“It’s a final, and a match against the Europa League winners, and that’s Chelsea.
“We still have something to clear with them, and take revenge, so hopefully we can win in Prague.”
Mourinho for his part has never lifted the Super Cup but if he succeeds this time round it will give Chelsea their second Super Cup, with the club having previously won it in 1998.
Mourinho, who has restored John Terry to the starting line-up after he lost his automatic first-choice status under Benitez, has pointed to the pressure Guardiola is under to at least match last season’s historic achievements.
“The team of Jupp Heynckes was the strongest team in Europe last season, for sure. And this season they are the same team, with three new players, all of them good, with a new manager, also good,” he said.
“Normally they have to be better this season than they were in the previous season.”
Guardiola has made many changes since he came in, most notably by imposing a 4-1-4-1 system which meant the defensive midfield partnership of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, arguably the strongest in Europe last season, was split up.
While Bayern have garnered 10 points from their first four league games, they are yet to put in a truly convincing display under Guardiola’s new system, despite enjoying more than 75% possession in some games.
Schweinsteiger, who faces a race to be fit after spraining his right ankle in Tuesday’s 1-1 league draw at Freiburg, has been used as the single holding midfielder, but the new system means gaps often appear between defence and midfield.
With playmaker Thiago Alcantara, who cost Bayern 25 million euros from Barcelona last month, out injured, Guardiola is likely to start with Mario Goetze and Toni Kroos in the central midfield roles flanked by wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Mourinho has used a 4-2-3-1 formation so far, rotating his strikers each time with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Germany’s rising star Andre Schuerrle all having started up front.