Both Josep Guardiola and Vítor Pereira believe fans in Monaco could be in for a treat when FC Barcelona and FC Porto vie for UEFA Super Cup glory at Stade Louis II on Friday.
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Something will have to give when the two dominant forces in European football this year contest the UEFA Super Cup, with Josep Guardiola predicting a potential classic as his FC Barcelona team tackle FC Porto in Monaco on Friday.
While Barcelona tiki-taka'd their way to UEFA Champions League and Liga glory last season, Porto claimed their national title without losing a game and added the UEFA Europa League and Portuguese Cup for good measure. Both clubs' trophy cabinets have been further swollen this month by domestic Super Cup triumphs – Real Madrid CF (5-4 on aggregate) and Vitória SC (2-1) the beaten teams – meaning two sides high on confidence will dispute the annual curtain-raiser to the European season.
Looking back at the mesmerising 3-1 UEFA Champions League final victory at Wembley and forward to taking on Porto, Guardiola said: "Finals are meaningful when you play against clubs with a great history – it was an honour to play against Manchester United and it's an honour to play against one of the strongest teams in the world now in Porto. Mathematically their figures are impeccable and when you watch them play you can see they do things very well. I think it will be an excellent final, just like the Champions League was."
Pedro Rodríguez, Lionel Messi and David Villa were on target in London in May and are expected to line up in a Barcelona XI missing injured central defenders Carles Puyol (knee) and Gerard Piqué (calf). Éric Abidal – the man who lifted the European Cup after recovering from surgery on a liver tumour – and Javier Mascherano are tipped to deputise, with marquee summer signings Cesc Fàbregas and Alexis Sánchez perhaps offering considerable support from the bench.
In his first European outing since replacing his Chelsea FC-bound former boss André Villas-Boas, new Porto coach Vítor Pereira must find a way to stop Messi, crowned the inaugural winner of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award on the eve of the game, scoring his first UEFA Super Cup goal at the third attempt. "You can't stop Messi with any special tactic," he said. "You stop him with a strong team performance, by concentrating defensively, covering each other and anticipating intentions. You will see our own game plan and identity; you don't adapt to your opponent."
Although Pereira hailed Barcelona as "the best team I've seen in my lifetime", he urged his side to take to the field as equals. "We're here on our own merit following a great season. We know Barcelona are a great team, but we're not here to see them play. We came here to win this game so we have the ingredients for a great spectacle." Porto fans should get a first glimpse of new recruit Steven Defour, the Belgian international's arrival softening the blow of the departure of Falcao – the striker whose 17 goals, including the winner in the Dublin final, propelled the Dragons to UEFA Europa League success.
These are certainly glory days at the Camp Nou, yet Guardiola shrugged off suggestions that his charges are creating a new footballing era – "I've said it time and time again that this will be decided by history" – and that they are unbeatable. However, he accepted that his players have benefited from two testing matches against their biggest rivals. "Facing other big teams helps you improve and the [Super Cup] games against Real Madrid were excellent preparation," he said. "We just hope the beautiful weather and the yachts won't distract us."