Bayern Munich have insisted that the Super Cup against Chelsea in Prague is not about revenge, but Pep Guardiola might feel differently.
Guardiola has a second chance at a first medal with Bayern, a way to start the flow of trophies which is demanded of him now. But it is a personal contest too, a first meeting between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho since the Portuguese took the Spanish title from Barcelona in April last year with Real Madrid.
That was a painful month for Guardiola. Within three days Mourinho beat him at home to take Barcelona's La Liga crown before Chelsea knocked them out of the Champions League.
Chelsea went on to beat Bayern in the final. Uli Höness, the German club's president, said, "It might have been about revenge if we hadn't won in 2013". But Guardiola will be meeting both of his nemeses tomorrow night, with Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho insisted repeatedly that their personal relationship is not the issue. "This is not about me and Pepe. It's about Chelsea and it's about Bayern Munich," he said.
While he has returned to Chelsea, Guardiola has made his first managerial excursion. At Barcelona he taught a philosophy that was known within the club, at Bayern he is trying to impose it on a new environment.
It is far too early to judge, but the results so far have been mixed. Their Bundesliga and Champions League titles last year mean Guardiola's only hope is, as Brian Clough once promised, "to win it better".
But the margins are fine and teething problems are inevitable. Guardiola wants to play his high-pressing, fast-passing football, based on a 4-1-4-1 formation with one holding midfielder rather than two.
So far this has not worked perfectly. Bayern lost the German Super Cup 4-2 to Borussia Dortmund in Guardiola's first real game, and in the Bundesliga – as shown with a 1-1 draw against Freiburg earlier this week – they are still getting used to the new system. Possession was not turned into goals, with the preferred front line of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry and Mario Mandzukic all rested – itself suggesting Guardiola's focus was on tomorrow night. Bastian Schweinsteiger limped off, meaning Guardiola still does not have his preferred choice in that crucial holding role. Thiago Alcantara – his personal summer buy – is injured and Javi Martinez is not fit.
Changes take time but the pressure is constant and Guardiola, for more than one reason, would love a win tonight.Reuse content