When Bayern Munich and Chelsea take the field on Friday (live, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2Go , Friday, 2:45 p.m. ET), there are bigger things at stake than the nugatory title that is the Super Cup. Yes, there is the obvious storyline of Bayern Munich avenging the heartbreaking final loss to the Blues a year ago, in their own living room no less. But this match is all about Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.
It's "Pep vs. Mou: Part Two."
The two locked horns famously in their days as Barcelona and Real Madrid managers, a time when press conferences before Los Clasicos turned into full-blown character attacks and the battles on the sidelines were as compelling as those on the pitch.
There was the infamous Mourinho excuse after a Champions League loss to Guardiola, when he cracked, "UEFA doesn't allow for Barcelona losses." There were the awkward, pre-match, no-look handshakes. Who doesn't miss those? And what about the most infamous moment of the Barca-Real feud, the time Mourinho gouged Tito Vilanova's eyeball?
Josep Guardiola (L) and Jose Mourinho (R) have shared their differences over the years. (Image: Lluis Gene/Getty Images).
On the field, the rivalry was just as animated. Guardiola holds the upper hand in head-to-heads, having won seven meetings to Mourinho's three, and drawing another five times. Guardiola has also scored the bigger wins; Barcelona famously took Mourinho's Real apart 5-0 in the Special One's first ever Clasico.
In terms of head-to-head titles, though, the two couldn't be closer. Each has beaten the other en route to a Champions League title - Mourinho's greatest masterpiece remains beating heavy favorites Barca, fresh off winning six titles in 2009, with Inter in the 2010 semifinals - and in their two La Liga seasons together as opposing managers, both won the league once, and both decided a cup final in their favor (Mourinho in the 2011 Copa del Rey, Guardiola in the 2011 Spanish Super Cup). Overall, Mourinho has won 20 titles to Guardiola's 14, though the former had an eight-year head start to his managerial career.
When Guardiola jettisoned La Liga two summers ago to go on a one-year sabbatical in New York, La Liga suddenly felt emptier without Mourinho's favorite adversary. It's now been over a year since the last of these clashes, a year too long.
Well, thank you Super Cup, because here we go again!
Mourinho seems to relish the opportunity to square off with Guardiola again, already throwing some fresh logs into the fire. "Under Jupp Heynckes, Bayern were the best team in Europe," Mourinho told German tabloid Bild , "Now they have a new coach and new players, and I'm not so sure."
Video: Mourinho talks Chelsea's present, past, future
Guardiola passed on the opportunity to retort during Thursday's press conference, but perhaps Mourinho has found a new antagonist in Bayern president Uli Hoeness. "In Spain, Pep and Jose Mourinho had several big fights over the years -- our coach won them by a mile," Hoeness quipped to Sport Bild . "The fact is, we never went for Mourinho but rather for Guardiola. Through that, I think, we made a clear statement."
Early shots have thus been fired in the latest installment of soccer's unequaled coaching rivalry, yet both managers would probably rather focus on their current works in progress.
Mourinho hasn't yet lost a competitive game with the Blues, but recent performances against Aston Villa and Manchester United have been far from convincing. There are still kinks to work out, and he's not done buying new players; Brazil's highly-touted attacker Willian signed a 5-year deal on Wednesday and could make his debut in Prague, while former Anzhi teammate Samuel Eto'o joined the Blues on Thursday. There is a lot Mourinho can and will learn about his new squad when they face off with the Champions League holders.
For Guardiola's Bayern, this is also a measuring-stick game. FCB hasn't looked as sharp and clinical as last year's version under Heynckes, and Guardiola's tinkering with the winning formula has raised more than a few eyebrows. But ask around and the bigger concern is on the defensive end. Bayern have looked more vulnerable to counter attacks under the new system, with Bastian Schweinsteiger now occupying the lone holding midfield role.
Complicating matters, Schweinsteiger sprained his ankle on Tuesday in a draw at Freiburg , putting his involvement for Friday in danger. With Thiago Alcanta on the shelf for two months (ankle injury) and Javi Martinez (abdominal injury) struggling for fitness, Guardiola may be forced to improvise if Schweinsteiger can't go. Not that he has a problem with that; perhaps we'll see Philipp Lahm deployed in midfield again?
For both managers, the Super Cup is also a chance to accomplish something new. Mourinho hasn't yet won this trophy, while Guardiola could give Bayern their first Super Cup in the fourth try. But whether they'd like to admit it or not, both managers will want this match for one overlying reason.
This one is personal.