UEFA Super Cup Previews

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

  • 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.”

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.”


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.

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT

FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.