UEFA Super Cup: Mourinho vs. Guardiola, Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich

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  • Guardiola has the edge over Mourinho all-time (7-3-5)
  • No German side has ever won the Super Cup
  • Mourinho looking for first silverware since rejoining Chelsea

On Friday night in Prague an old rivalry will be renewed at Eden Arena. José Mourinho will once again face nemesis Pep Guardiola as the former Real Madrid and Barcelona managers square off in charge of their new teams.

The European Super Cup will be played away from the usual confides of Monaco for the first-time since the trophy became a one-off game at a neutral venue in 1998. For those not familiar with this match, the previous seasons Champions League winner plays the winner of the Europa League for the Super Cup title.

And this one should be a right humdinger in the Czech Republic.

To say Guardiola and Mourinho don’t see eye-to-eye is a massive understatement as the duo have locked horns 15 times with Pep coming out on top. As manager of Barcelona Guardiola had the upper-hand on Mourinho’s Inter Milan and Real Madrid sides. Out of 15 games Moruinho has won just three, drawn five and lost seven. When asked on Thursday about the rivalry between the two during their time in charge of Madrid and Barca, Mourinho pointed to his chest and patted the Chelsea badge on his jacket.

“If you want questions about Chelsea I am here until four o’clock. If you want questions about Real Madrid and Barcelona then I am not here.”

source:
Will Guardiola have the last laugh once again?

The 50-year-old Portuguese manager was noticeably irked by the past being dragged up time and time again during his pre-match press conference, further displaying his displeasure for Guardiola and the constant reminders of his past failures against the Spanish coach. Both men will be aiming to put down a marker on Friday as they aim to win their first trophy of the season at their new clubs.

Expect a heated battle in the dugouts but also on the pitch as Chelsea’s young side aim to knock down the reigning European champions. Last season Chelsea also contested the Super Cup but lost to Atletico Madrid 4-1 in Monaco and will be searching for their second Super Cup title in club history. Munich has never won the Super Cup and shockingly neither has a team from Germany in the competitions 31-year history.

Will that change on Friday? Guardiola has won the Super Cup twice with Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, while Mourinho has failed to win the competition with FC Porto in 2003 and Inter Milan in 2010.

On the pitch Chelsea’s two new signings Willian and Sameul Eto’o aren’t included in the squad and David Luiz is still out with a hamstring injury. Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defensive players Javi Martinez and Jan Kirchhoff are all struggling to be fit for the showpiece final.

You can watch the UEFA Super Cup live in the US on Fox Sports 2 from 2:30pm ET.

What they’re saying

Mourinho on only beating Guardiola three times in 15 games:  “I just know that I won the Champions League semifinal in Barca with Inter. I won the Spanish Cup final in Valencia, I won the Super Cup in Spain. I was champion in Spain. I won the match of the title in Barcelona with Real Madrid, so I don’t know. Maybe you are right and I am wrong. But I don’t care.”

Mourinho on the game vs. Bayern: “Football is something that sometimes goes against every gameplan, you never know what will happen. Between good teams it’s difficult to have a big result, normally it’s tight, but last year in the Super Cup it was 4-1. Because of the stability Bayern has, over the last years they have kept the same team and the same players, we can compete against them; when you compete eye to eye it means you think you can win, and we think we can.”

Guardiola on his rivalry with Mourinho and his methods: “Once the referee starts the game, the focus will be on the players. That’s the reason we’re here – that’s why kids love football and millions of people around the world will tune in to watch these two marvelous clubs in action. Not the coaches. When you lose the ball, his [Mourinho’s] teams quick, quick counter-attack. He’s a master in these actions. Everybody knows he’s an excellent, excellent trainer.

Chelsea’s Kevin De Bruyne on the challenge of facing Bayern: “I think the style will be very similar. They like to retain the ball and keep possession, which is what they did last season. They already have their own style of play and I think it will be the same. Of course we are looking forward to the game, and we will do everything we can in order to win it. That’s why we want to play football, to be involved in the big matches, so let’s see what happens.”

Prediction

This is going to be a really tasty clash in the Czech capital. Both managers have shrugged off their rivalry ahead of the game, but a chance to get an early season head start on the other is hugely attractive. Both Chelsea and Bayern will go deep into the Champions League this year and both sides are stacked with attacking talent. However there are question marks over Bayern’s defense under Guardiola’s new formation and Chelsea look solid as a rock. I think the Londoners will just edge this.

Celtic’s dominance under Rodgers reaching new levels

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They’re unbeaten in 29 games, winning 27 of them. They hold a 25-point lead. They’re about to clinch a sixth straight league title this weekend and it’s still not even April.

Celtic’s players have taken their supremacy of Scottish soccer to a new level this season, putting the storied club from Glasgow in the conversation when discussing the most dominant sides in Europe’s domestic leagues in the 21st century.

Celtic will be the Scottish champion again as early as Friday if its closest rival, Aberdeen, loses to Dundee. If Aberdeen wins, Celtic will take an unassailable lead in the Scottish Premiership by beating Hearts on Sunday.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

There’s been a sense of inevitability about the whole thing since the turn of the year, by which time Celtic had jumped into a 19-point lead. It’s long stopped being called a “title race” in Scotland, more a procession.

Meanwhile, the team coached by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers won the Scottish League Cup in late November and is also through to the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.

With Celtic’s unbeaten run across three domestic competitions currently at 36 games, this might be the most dominant season by any club in the history of Scotland’s top flight.

A glance around Europe shows a few other examples of title monopolies.

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) and BATE Borisov (Belarus) are currently on a streak of 11 domestic leagues titles in a row since 2006. Olympiakos is on course for a seventh straight Greek league title, which would be its 12th in the last 13 years, and Sheriff Tiraspol has won the Moldovan league every year except one since 2000. Basel leads the Swiss league by 17 points and is about to seal a ninth title in 10 years.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

In these lesser-profile leagues, teams can dominate because of the cash they receive from participating in UEFA competitions, which often allow them to outspend their domestic rivals.

Last week, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, attending a conference in Lisbon, spoke of the threats to European soccer in the coming years, including the “decrease in competitive balance within European club competitions and secondary effects affecting domestic competitions.”

There are examples of lopsided championships in Europe’s big leagues, too: Juventus is closing on an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title in Italy and on course for a third straight Serie A-Coppa Italia double; Bayern Munich is on course for a fifth straight Bundesliga title in Germany, which included winning one championship after 27 matches of a 34-round league; Lyon won the French league title seven times in succession from 2002; and Ajax won four straight titles in the Netherlands from 2011-14.

Scotland is widely regarded as a backwater in European soccer these days, mainly because of the uncompetitive nature of its league and an increasing lack of exposure and coverage outside Britain.

What didn’t help was Rangers – Celtic’s fierce crosstown rival and winner of a record 54 league titles – getting demoted to the fourth tier of the Scottish game in 2012 because of financial irregularities.

This is Rangers’ first season back in the Premiership, but it hasn’t been able to challenge Celtic and currently sits 33 points behind in third place. There used to be constant talk of the two “Old Firm” clubs crossing the border to join the English league but that has cooled.

“I want to win (the league) by 50 points,” Rodgers, who is in his first season at Celtic, said last month.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

In any other league, that would be a preposterous comment, but perhaps no longer in Scotland.

The season started so embarrassingly for Celtic and Rodgers, a 1-0 loss to Gibraltarian part-timer Lincoln Red Imps in a Champions League qualifier in July described by some pundits as the club’s worst defeat in its 130-year history.

Now, they are about to lift the league title with eight matches to spare and potentially in the month of March for the second time in four years.

“We want to continue winning, continue the run that we’re on,” Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon said, “and make sure we do that for as long as we can.”

AP Sports Writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and James Ellingworth in Moscow, and Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey in Berlin, Daniella Matar in Milan, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

Steve Douglas is at http://www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

Mourinho: Midseason international friendlies don’t make sense

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Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United has a big challenge thanks to injuries and a club with far more international participants than the weekend’s Premier League rival.

It has the manager asking, frankly, why the friendlies?

While Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were injured in England training, not the friendly against Germany nor the World Cup qualifier versus Lithuania, Mourinho wonders why the national teams need to play relatively meaningless matches in the middle of club season.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

Mourinho says he is being careful not to be too vocal about his disappointment given that he’ll probably one day need those friendlies as an international boss. From Sky Sports:

“A couple of weeks before the Euros or a couple of weeks before the World Cup makes sense. But mid-season friendly matches mixed with qualification matches, I don’t think that makes sense.

“On top of that the matches are not really big matches so I am not a big fan. But I think one day I will be there so I cannot be very critical.”

Mourinho will be without Jones, Smalling, and Paul Pogba this weekend. He also has several internationals who won’t arrive back at Old Trafford until Thursday. United hosts West Brom on Saturday.

Lamela needs hip surgery, out for rest of Spurs season

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Tottenham Hotspur won’t be getting an Erik Lamela boost any time soon.

The 25-year-old winger will undergo surgery on his ailing hip this Saturday, costing him availability for Spurs’ stretch run and Argentina duty.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

Lamela has been missing since Oct. 29, and left Spurs lineup with the team unbeaten in the Premier League (5W-4D).

He registered a goal and an assist in PL play, adding a goal and four helpers in the side’s first two rounds of the EFL Cup and two assists in three Champions League matches.

Real Salt Lake introduces Mike Petke as new head coach

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Mike Petke is getting a deserved next kick as an MLS coach.

The New York Red Bulls icon, 41, is taking over at Real Salt Lake, where he had been leading USL side Real Monarchs since December.

“They’re an animal waiting to be released from a cage,” Petke called RSL’s roster.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

Petke won better than 41 percent of his matches as RBNY boss, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. This came after 351 matches between Colorado, the Red Bulls/MetroStars, and DC United.

He leaves Real Monarchs with a perfect 1-0 record. Unbeaten!

“The vision that he laid out, along with Craig and Rob, was music to my ears,” Petek said. “They really showed me what was ahead for the RSL organization, and it was an easy thing to be a part of.”

Petke thanked the Monarchs for restoring some of his love for managing, something he said was “kicked out of me”. The Red Bulls shockingly parted ways with Petke in January 2015, moving onto Jesse Marsch.

This is a low risk hire for Real, who gains a respected coach and soccer mind. The optics aren’t great coming so early into the season and so soon after his hiring at Monarchs raised eyebrows.

The hiring comes four days after RSL drew the Red Bulls 0-0 at Red Bull Arena, which is the only disappointment of this whole ordeal: Not getting to see the response at his old home.