Ahead of the annual meeting between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have both tried to shift attention from their own rivalry and onto the array of stars that will line up on the pitch in Prague. A meeting of Bayern Munich and Chelsea has plenty of history to it in itself -- plenty of Bayern players will still have nightmares about their Champions League final defeat to the London side on home soil in 2012 -- but much of the focus has been on the two men in the dugout.
Guardiola and Mourinho, of course, clashed frequently during the two seasons in which they managed across the divide of Spain’s two giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Before that there was a keenly contested Champions League semifinal when Mourinho’s Inter knocked out the Catalans. The Portuguese has only won three of his 15 meetings with Guardiola, however, a record he had a hard time accepting when it was presented to him in the pre-match press conference.
"Your statistics are very wrong," Mourinho initially said, according to BBC Sport. "Go and see what happened when I was with Inter in the Champions League semifinal, the King's Cup final with Real in Spain, the Super Cup in Spain.
"Maybe you are right and I am wrong but I don't care. This is not about us, it's about Chelsea and Bayern."
Guardiola too, who famously lost his normal cool demeanor during the most intense run of fixtures between Barcelona and Madrid in 2011, was also not keen to talk about the coaches.
"We're here for the players, not the coaches," Guardiola said. "Millions of people around the world will watch the game, not the coaches."
The rivalry is enhanced by the two being almost ideological opposites in their philosophy about the game. And it is those ideals that both men are still looking to imprint on the sides they took over this summer.
On paper, Mourinho is faced with the bigger overhaul, having taken over a squad that was ironically built in large part with the hope that Guardiola would soon lead it. In his second spell at Chelsea, Mourinho has showed once more his natural reactive tendencies in a goalless draw at Manchester United on Monday. In the two wins prior to that, though, there have been signs of the quality interplay his collection of attacking midfield talent can produce.
Guardiola, on the other hand, has taken over a side that has just won an unprecedented treble and was already moving toward playing the possession and high-pressing soccer that he favors. Bayern Munich won the first three matches in their Bundesliga title defense, but drew 1-1 away to Freiburg on Tuesday when Guardiola made several changes to his side.
Guardiola’s first signing at Bayern, Thiago Alcantara, will be missing after undergoing ankle surgery, but Bastian Schweinsteiger is available after suffering a knock in midweek.
Chelsea have strengthened this week with Samuel Eto’o and Willian having arrived from Anzhi Makhachkala, but neither will be involved in Prague. David Luiz could be fit to make his first appearance of the season.
Bayern Munich (probable)
D: Lahm, Van Buyten, Dante, Alaba
Robben, Gotze, Kroos, Ribery
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Lampard
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
Prediction: Mourinho’s side will likely be happy to cede possession to Bayern as they were at Old Trafford earlier in the week. But, with Andre Schurrle struggling as a striker, of sorts, Fernando Torres could return. The crucial thing for Chelsea will be to get better service to their dangerous attacking players from midfield.
Guardiola has not been afraid to change a winning formula so far at Bayern. The double midfield pivot has been abolished, with the Spaniard instead looking to accommodate as many of his gifted playmakers as possible. That has led to some defensive vulnerability, which Chelsea will look to exploit on the break.
Chelsea could have some joy on the counter in what should be a closely fought match, yet Bayern are currently the more complete side and may just come out on top.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea
Where to watch: The UEFA Super Cup will kick-off from the Stadion Eden in Prague at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 2, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.