FC Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola and his FC Shakhtar Donetsk counterpart Mircea Lucescu will put friendship aside for 90 minutes when their sides meet with the UEFA Super Cup at stake.
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FC Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola and his FC Shakhtar Donetsk counterpart Mircea Lucescu will put their friendship aside for 90 minutes when their sides meet in Monaco with the UEFA Super Cup at stake.
The pair first crossed paths in Italy. Guardiola had a double stint at Brescia Calcio between 2001 and 2003 staying in the same flat Lucescu had occupied when he was coach of the club in the 1990s. From that unlikely source, their friendship developed. "We know each other very well, we've become great friends and I'm sure we will remain close," said Lucescu, coach of the first Ukrainian side to compete in the UEFA Super Cup since FC Dynamo Kyiv. "I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I hope he has the same respect for me. We're going to do our talking on the field."
The 64-year-old Romanian guided Shakhtar to UEFA Cup glory in May but acknowledges that Monaco represents another step up with the Pitmen aiming to become the country's first UEFA Super Cup winners since Dynamo defeated FC Bayern München in 1975. "With everything Barcelona did last year, they must be favourites, but it's not going to be easy," said Lucescu, bidding to become the sixth coach to win this competition twice following his triumph with Galatasaray SK in 2000. "It's going to be a wonderful show, two wonderful teams with similar styles who have great technical qualities and love to play football. I'm delighted to be back here; Shakhtar are a team with a big future."
The teams met in last season's UEFA Champions League group stage, each recording an away win but only Barça progressing to the first knockout round as Shakhtar dropped into the UEFA Cup. The Ukrainian club have a decent record against their opponents with two wins from six previous meetings, including a 3-2 triumph at the Camp Nou last December, a result which has left its mark on Guardiola. "We are ready, it's a big challenge for us," said the Barcelona coach. "Shakhtar beat us last season and then had an extraordinary UEFA Cup campaign. Very few teams can dominate a match like Shakhtar can. Lucescu and some of his players have been there for four or five years and they're doing a good job."
The UEFA Champions League holders are on the verge of completing the signing of Shakhtar centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy but of more immediate concern to the coach is the opportunity to claim a sixth piece of silverware in little over a year following last weekend's Spanish Super Cup victory against Athletic Club Bilbao. "In the past eleven years, the UEFA Cup winners have won this trophy seven times and the Champions League only four," pointed out Guardiola, whose team have triumphed in this competition twice previously but were beaten 3-0 by Sevilla FC on their last appearance in 2006. "That's something to consider. This is very difficult, far more so than people might consider and we have to prepare for that. We will attempt to win of course. There's no guarantee of that but it's my job to ensure we do."