UEFA Super Cup Preview - Chelsea v. Bayern Munich

Bayern, being the reigning 2013 Champions League holders, and Chelsea, the 2013 Europa League...

Bayern, being the reigning 2013 Champions League holders, and Chelsea, the 2013 Europa League champions, are set for the high-stakes showdown Friday evening in Prague. The UEFA Super Cup, adding another chapter to an intriguing history, and bragging rights are all on the line. On paper, this has all the makings to end up being a filthy, filthy match - and by 'filthy', I mean 'mindmeltingly fantastic'. Let's break it down. 

For starters, this is a rematch of the “GOOD GOD IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING” 2012 Champions League Final, in which an 88th minute Didier Drogba power-header leveled the score (seriously though, how many times has he done that in his career?), only five minutes after Mueller’s strike had looked to spell another Champion’s League heartbreak for the London club. Chelsea seemed destined for the same disappointment on 95 minutes, as Drogba turned from hero to villain with his rash tackle bringing down Ribery in the box. Luckily for the Blues, the choke-artist extraordinaire that is Arjen Robben stepped up to take the penalty. Cech was able to make the save and pounce on the rebound before Robben could finish. The tense affair continued as a stalemate, ultimately leaving it to a penalty shootout to decide the game. After almost 10 minutes of maddening levels of stress (that only a penalty shootout to decide a final can bring), it was down to the final two kick-takers. The ever-classy Bastian Schweinsteiger followed by Mr. Clutch himself, Didier Drogba. Schweinie’s shot somehow, (incredibly, mercifully!), ricocheted off the post and out. I can’t think of a time when I jumped and screamed with more joy than that moment. Except maybe when I saw Drogs stepping up to take the final kick. I knew there was no way he was going to miss – he’d gone through too much (almost singlehandedly beating Barca in the Semis, and scoring the equalizer in the final) and waited too long. I wasn’t wrong. The tears of joy fell, the beers flowed like in the fabled “Land of Milk and Honey”. Heartbreak was Bayern’s this time. Chelsea could finally lift the trophy they’d sought more than any other.

However, Bayern only had to wait a year for revenge of their own. In 2013, they completed their domination of all other essentially all other European competition, beating Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final. Even Robben tasted redemption, being awarded Man of the Match honors for his 89th minute winner. Alright, I’ll even take back that “choke-artist” comment from earlier, based solely on his beautifully ‘Robben-ed’ left-footed strike.

But this isn’t where the intrigue of Friday’s match ends. Travelling back to 2010, we again see a Bayern Munich side lining up for a Champions League final opposite none other than Jose Mourinho and his over-achieving Inter Milan squad. Mourinho masterminded another victory – his squad came out victorious on that night, 2-0, thanks to two Diego Milito strikes. Many of the players lining up for Bayern Friday night were part of that squad as well – Robben, Mueller, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Van Buyten. Robben himself played, and lifted the Premier League trophy, under Mourinho during his first stint as Chelsea manager, surely making defeat all that much more bitter.

Then you have the history, lined with countless displays of love and affection, between the two managers who will be lining up opposite one another on Friday. There have been few rivalries as polarizing or fierce as that between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. A rivalry so intense, it even culminated in eye-poking. It’s no secret that Mourinho was essentially brought in by Real Madrid to dethrone Barca at the peak of their prowess. He did just that, for one year, smashing goal-scoring records along the way. These two couldn’t be more opposite. Guardiola is the wise sage. The John Lennon. The pacifier, whose brilliance is shielded behind his calm, cool, and collected exterior. Mourinho is the Mick Jagger, the Keith Richards. The wild one who’s always willing to stir the pot; the one who, with each press conference, could fill 3-4 volumes with golden quotes even Sun Tzu would envy. The one who’s toeing the thin line of genius and insanity, dabbling on both sides at times. But in this battle, the upper hand must be given to Pep. His Barca was the best club in the world for years, with Mourinho usurping them for only a season. That’s not to say they didn’t deliver us some scorching “Clasicos”, however. During the Mourinho v. Pep years in La Liga, everyone, regardless of which team you supported, tuned in to watch their sides face off – even if you didn’t have a vested interest in the outcome, watching the rivalry’s drama unfold was more entertaining than anything ‘reality TV’ could ever hope to muster.

Now, like two star-crossed lovers that can’t seem to part from one another, we get to see them go head-to-head yet again. Pep, in his first year at Bayern, moulding his squad into his Tiki-Taka image; Mourinho doing the same with his “second coming” at Chelsea. Who will come out on top can only be left to speculation, and endless pub-debate. I’m just glad we only have to wait one more day to see these two kings of modern football square off against each other once more – clubs and managers alike.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@blakehewitt) and SWOL for Chelsea-related news, commentary, and updates on postings to both ChelseaDaft and Soccer Without Limits (SWOL).


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