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.”

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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.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.