Scores to settle as Chelsea face Bayern Munich in Super Cup

Posted by Phil Lythell

Chelsea will get their first chance to lift a trophy this season when they face Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup in Prague.

The traditional curtain-raiser to the continental football season is rarely held in much regard, with most observers viewing it as little more than a glorified friendly, though this time round the array of intriguing subplots promises to make the 2013 edition a more compelling affair.

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For starters, it will pit the two teams that contested the 2012 Champions League final against each other for the first time since that balmy night in Bavaria when Didier Drogba broke Bayern hearts and made the dreams of every Chelsea fan come true. The 19th May 2012 was an occasion that will never be forgotten by either club. For Chelsea, it was catharsis for a decade of near misses; for Bayern, it was the manifestation of their worst nightmares as destiny decided that they would become the first team since AS Roma almost 30 years before to lose out on club football's greatest prize in their own stadium.

While the Blues and their supporters are still dining out on lifting the European Cup for the first time in their history, the Germans were able to soften the blow by going one step better in last year's final, though one suspects that the bitter memory still burns at the back of the minds of all those associated with the club. The players who lost that game have been at pains to point out -- for the most part -- that the thought of revenge in this forthcoming meeting has not entered their thoughts, though the cat was let out of the bag by Thomas Muller. The forward who opened the scoring that night and left the pitch celebrating with the conviction that the job was as good as done has admitted that he still feels a lingering frustration that his efforts were eclipsed by Chelsea's legendary Ivorian striker. Muller is unlikely to be the only one with that sentiment.

Another issue that those involved have attempted to gloss over is the renewal of rivalries between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, the respective clubs' new managers. To say the pair are not exactly the best of friends would be to understate the situation enormously after a volley of verbal barbs was slung between them when they were in direct competition as the helmsmen of Real Madrid and Barcelona for two combustible seasons. As grand an institution as Bayern Munich is, there remains a feeling that Guardiola first left his post at Camp Nou and then rebuffed any approaches from English clubs due to the emotional exhaustion of doing battle with Mourinho. That is just conjecture and something that will never be clarified, though if that theory holds any water it would be fascinating to find out the Spaniard's inner thoughts ahead of their next clash in the capital of the Czech Republic.

In Mourinho's new diplomatic facade he has tried to befriend each of his rivals from Arsene Wenger to Manuel Pellegrini (though with overtures to Andre Villas-Boas conspicuously absent); he has continued this policy by refusing to see the Super Cup as anything but Chelsea versus Bayern Munch. In the prematch news conference the Portuguese bristled at journalists as they tried to direct the narrative of the contest toward it being the next chapter of a personal struggle between the two great managers. That suggestion might have been deliberately swerved by Mourinho, though it can be safely assumed that whoever does come out on top will do so with a certain degree of smug satisfaction bubbling under the surface.

Unconnected to their manager, Chelsea as a club will have a point to prove after the debacle of their last participation in this fixture. The Blues kicked off against Atletico Madrid 12 months ago as firm favourites, though the bookmakers were left laughing into their piles of cash after Radamel Falcao's hat trick dismantled the Londoners as they crashed to a 4-1 defeat. The Blues were never in the game and it was the first sign that Roberto Di Matteo's team had some terminal defensive problems that would subsequently be exploited by Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion and Juventus, among others. There will be plenty of personal pride at stake for those players starting on Friday night who also played against Atletico. For them, Mourinho, Guardiola, Muller and the rest, this year's Super Cup will be much more than a glorified friendly.

At least Chelsea can go into this fixture with a spring in their step, having earned seven points from their opening trio of Premier League fixtures, and they will be further buoyed by receiving a very kind draw for the group stages of the Champions League. The top seeds have been drawn against Schalke 04, FC Basel and Steaua Bucharest and it will be a shock of seismic proportions if they emulate last year's nadir of failing to reach the knockout rounds. All three opponents are familiar foes, with the Romanians and Swiss both dispatched en route to claiming the Europa League in May. Had Benfica somehow been shoehorned into Group E, then the set of vanquished opponents from the victorious march to Amsterdam would have been almost complete.

Meanwhile, Chelsea faced Schalke in two group encounters in the 2007-08 season -- winning the home match 2-0 and securing a goalless draw in Germany -- so they are by no means an unknown quantity, even if the personnel from both sides has changed significantly since then. An amendment to a tired and worn football cliche might state that there is no such thing as an easy Champions League group and perhaps there will be a hidden peril somewhere along the way. However, if the Blues are not still in the competition when the New Year is rung in, then some serious questions will need to be asked.

For now though, there is the small matter of a match against Bayern Munich to negotiate and a few scores to be settled. With no shortage of quality in either squad, it promises to be a Super Cup to remember and there have not been many of those in the event's 42-year history.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell


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