Today’s UEFA Super Cup match will feature Bayern Munich, led by former Spanish Football coach Pep Guardiola, against Chelsea FC, led by former La Liga winner Jose Mourinho. Guardiola coached Barcelona FC to global prominence over a period that saw the Catalans win every title available to them at home and abroad. Mourinho presided with an iron fist over Real Madrid. During his tenure, he managed to win two domestic trophies of note, both against Guardiola’s Barca, while simultaneously demoralizing the greatest collection of talent the Portuguese has ever had at his disposal.
Guardiola’s legacy lives on at Barca, and new coach Gerardo Martino seems intent on maintaining most of the structure and roster he inherited with a few tweaks to ensure key players are fresh when needed. The Catalans are enjoying a good opening to their 2013-14 season, including a first place on the La Liga table and hard fought, clinching, second leg Super Cup win over Atletico Madrid earlier this week.
Mourinho’s legacy persists at Real, since new coach Carlo Ancelotti seems unable to grasp what is needed for the Madrid side to hum again. The Merengues are suffering through a rough beginning to their new campaign and only the individual quality of their players, and a bit of luck, have kept them on the winning side of matches that could have gone either way. The team sits fifth in La Liga and seem about to be mired again in controversy they have heaped on themselves.
Will Gareth Bale’s rumored arrival be anything other than an added distraction at a time when his potential role will put anchors Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, and Luka Modric, along with substitutes Kaka and Alvaro Morata, and new signing Isco, in a questioning mood. This all to go along with the recently less sad Cristiano Ronaldo’s feelings that his role is not fully appreciated. Why not make things a bit more murky for team, coach and fans alike?
Which brings us to today’s clash between Pep’s Bayern and Jose’s Chelsea, a rivalry that will certainly have a number of editions to come. What can we expect of this early match-up between potential late-stage Champions League contenders? How will their respective domestic and continental campaigns reflect each new man at the top, and relate to the posts they each recently vacated?
Pep comes to Germany after as successful a stretch as a coach has ever had. He wants to prove he is not a one-trick pony Pep inherited the current Champions League holders and a team so strong that few others on the continent have a realistic chance at contending with them. He has a great stronghold from which to launch a memorable 2013-14 effort.
Mou comes to England humbled and in need of redemption. He inherited a strong club, but one that has been out of sorts since his own departure years back. He needs to make his charges believe in themselves but also in him. He will have to earn his future reputation, as for once his past one is not the type one can rest upon.
If their domestic league beginnings are any indication (Chelsea is a point clear of Liverpool and Tottenham in the Primiership and Bayern is atop the Bundesliga, a point ahead of Leverjusen, Dortmund and Mainz) both clubs will be the ones to beat at home and will also be major contenders on the continent.
One could argue they were already, without their new coaches, and that would be a fair claim. But, both coaches are strong personalities, with winning resumes, sure to imprint their values on these clubs and probably obtain top performances from their respective rosters. And each coach will have an overriding personal agenda to match that which each player will be bringing, with next summer on their minds. The question will be how well will the coaches’ and players’ agendas mesh, even given their seemingly complementary objectives.
Today, look for Bayern to take the offensive and for Chelsea to counter from a major defensive stance. Watch Pep’s charges press Chelsea’s outlets whether from goal kicks or in midfield. See Mou’s men use physicality against the physical Germans and for the likes of Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, and Ramires to provide the major offensive punch for Chelsea. Watch Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben to star offensively for Bayern. The safe bet here is a tie, but I see a comfortable Bayern victory–they have to many weapons.
Pep and Mou don’t like each other and for that matter Bayern and Chelsea are not historically friendly either, but this match, played at Eden Arena, Prauge, Czech Republic, will take things to another level. It will augur in the mood and demeanor going forward of major 2014 World Cup contenders. Each coach and team will be representing a major contributor to the teams that are now vying for a place at the table come next summer. Each player will be auditioning, each team will be looking for that psychological edge of walking into their group stage’s Brazilian stadium off a domestic league or Champions League victory. This is a game for more than bragging rights, it is the opening salvo of battles to come that will define the lines for the major war next summer.