José Mourinho is certain his Chelsea FC side can compete against an FC Bayern München outfit coached by Josep Guardiola, who labelled his old adversary a tactical "master".
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When European champions FC Bayern München take on UEFA Europa League winners Chelsea FC in Friday's UEFA Super Cup, it will be about more than just revenge for the Bavarians' painful defeat at home in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Chelsea lifted Europe's most coveted trophy at the Fußball Arena München. While Bayern recovered to prevail in the following year's decider against Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea redeemed themselves for a group stage exit with success in the UEFA Europa League, teeing up a shot at payback for Bayern at the Stadion Eden in Prague.
Both clubs have seen the arrival of new coaches over the summer, with Bayern hiring former FC Barcelona trainer Josep Guardiola and Chelsea welcoming back José Mourinho. The two contested a healthy rivalry in Spain at the respective helms of Barcelona and Real Madrid CF, but Guardiola insisted Friday's reunion is about the spectacle itself.
"Once the referee starts the game, the focus will be on the players," said the Spaniard, who won the UEFA Super Cup with Barça in 2009 and 2011. "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 marvellous clubs in action. Not the coaches."
Guardiola, who labelled the Czech capital a "beautiful city", added that he had the "utmost respect for Mourinho's career" and lauded the Portuguese tactician's ability to create strong defensive sides able to counter quickly: "He's a master at that."
Mourinho, who led the Blues to two Premier League titles during his first spell with the club between 2004 and 2007, believes facing such high-calibre opposition so early in the campaign can only be advantageous. "It's good for us to play Bayern before the Champions League starts because I don't want the players to believe they can win the Europa League, then keep playing at the same level and expect to do well in the Champions League," he said.
Mourinho has a mixed record against Bayern, beating them on aggregate with Chelsea in the last eight of the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League and again with FC Internazionale Milano in the 2009/10 final, but losing with Madrid in the 2011/12 semis.
"It's always tough to play against Bayern," he added. "Their strength is the team. Their players are at the peak of their careers. [Franck] Ribéry, [Arjen] Robben, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger – they're all playing in the best competitions year on year for club and country. They showed they were the perfect team last year by winning the treble."
Despite disparity between the sides in terms of experience, Mourinho is convinced his fresh-faced Chelsea outfit can repeat their 2012 heroics and earn him the one club trophy which has so far eluded him. "Last year's Super Cup finished 4-1 [to Club Atlético de Madrid] so you never know.
We can compete against Bayern. Whenever you play, it's possible to win – and we think we can."