Friday night’s UEFA Super Cup will see Champions League winners Bayern Munich pit their wits against Europa League holders Chelsea.
However, all eyes will be on the touchline with the return of one of Europe’s fiercest managerial battles – Pep Guardiola vs. Jose Mourinho.
Munich’s Guardiola has reiterated that fans should focus on the game rather than him and his bitter rival, insisting “we’re here for the players, not the coaches.”
Mourinho will be looking for his first trophy since his return to Chelsea, but the Portuguese coach will do well to focus on his players too, rather than be sucked into a war of words with his nemesis.
Bayern are the bookies’ favourites, with Mourinho having beaten Guardiola just three times during their time in La Liga.
The battle between the two managers was, at times, akin to the on-field competition between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mourinho is of course starting his second stint at Stamford Bridge, but he is proven all over Europe having won trophies in Italy, Spain, Portugal and England.
Although a much younger man, Guardiola is as yet only proven in his native Spain. Guardiola’s Barcelona may have dominated their time in Spain, but Mourinho was the first to show the world that Barca were not invincible.
In terms of their playing careers, there is only one winner. Guardiola has ribbed the Special One in the past about his lack of playing days, with the Spaniard enjoying spells at Barcelona, Roma and Al-Ahli.
It is debatable who has the more bottle, however, with Guardiola taking a sabbatical last year after declaring he needed a break from football.
As a one-off game, man-management will be crucial in tonight’s Super Cup, but whilst both managers are hugely popular among their players, Mourinho has something of a history regarding player fall-outs, including his infamous spat with Iker Casillas at Madrid.
With this in mind, keeping his players’ minds on the task at hand will only be possible if Mourinho makes some attempt to stay out of the limelight.
This will certainly not be easy. During one of the coaches’ previous encounters, a touchline brawl ended in Mourinho poking former Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye.
It will be interesting to see if Chelsea choose to attack Bayern (on the pitch), or if they again opt to start without an out-and-out striker.
Mourinho has made a perfect start to his second spell at Chelsea, but as Champions League winners Bayern will be the favourites. Either way, the two coaches must make a conscious effort to ensure their feud plays second fiddle to the football, and not the other way round.
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