Jose Mourinho leads his Chelsea side into battle against Bayern Munich in Prague tomorrow with the UEFA Super Cup at stake, and the Portuguese knows from past meetings with the German club that only the strongest of performances will ensure we come out on top and secure our first trophy of the new campaign.
Mourinho, who goes head-to-head with Pep Guardiola, after the former Barcelona manager took charge of Bayern ahead of the new season, has only been involved in the Super Cup as a manager once previously, back in 2003 with Porto, when his side were beaten 1-0 by AC Milan.
Speaking ahead of the clash against the European champions, he outlined the reasons for their dominance last season, in which, along with the Champions League, they also clinched the Bundesliga title and German Cup.
‘Their biggest strength is the team, the team is a finished product, with players who are in the best moment of their careers,’ said Mourinho. ‘I’m not exactly sure but it’s a team with an average age of roughly 27 or 28, [Arjen] Robben, [Franck] Ribery, [Mario] Mandzukic, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger. Tony Kroos is a bit younger but they are all very experienced.
‘All of them, year after year, play in the best competitions, not just with their club but also their national teams. They are coming from a season where they showed they are a perfect team, because to win the treble, only perfect teams can do it. They are a fantastic team.
‘It’s always difficult, I’ve played against Bayern many times, sometimes in recent years, other times long ago. The first time was in 2005 with Chelsea, it’s always difficult, it doesn’t matter about the players, system or formations.’
Turning his attention towards his own side, Mourinho believes the young players who featured in our goalless draw at Old Trafford on Monday will have benefited from the experience, and having been beaten 4-1 by Atletico Madrid in last season’s Super Cup, he expects a positive reaction from the group.
‘It’s a match that gives a trophy,’ he explained. ‘If any one of us say we don’t want to win it that’s not true, but at the same time I have this profile of team, many young players. United was a first chance for them to feel it and cope with a new situation.
‘I didn’t speak with them yet, after the United game I let them rest, and yesterday I couldn’t be with them because I had to go to Willian’s work permit hearing which will allow him to play in the Premier League.
‘This morning we travelled, but now it’s time to start preparing for the game and speak about things. I want to listen to what they want to tell me about last year’s Super Cup and draw a conclusion.’
The Blues, who lifted the trophy back in 1998 courtesy of a 1-0 win over Real Madrid, have started the season well, with two home wins – against Hull City and Aston Villa – preceding the hard-fought draw away at Manchester United.
While his current squad, bar a few notable exceptions, may still be relatively inexperienced in comparison to tomorrow’s opponents, Mourinho has seen enough, both during matches and in training, to suggest we should be approaching the game full of confidence.
‘Football is something that sometimes goes against every gameplan, you never know what will happen,’ said the Chelsea boss. ‘Between good teams it’s difficult to have a big result, normally it’s tight, but last year in the Super Cup it was 4-1.
‘Because of the stability Bayern has, over the last years they have kept the same team and the same players, we can compete against them; when you compete eye to eye it means you think you can win, and we think we can.’
The Portuguese has been boosted ahead of the game by the return to fitness of both Juan Mata and David Luiz, although he has not made a decision yet on whether the Brazilian will feature.
He also spoke about two players in particular – Andre Schurrle and Oscar – and predicted big futures for the attacking duo.
‘Juan is fit, David let’s see,’ said Mourinho. ‘I believe he is fit, but it’s one thing is to be fit and another is to be ready to play.
‘Schurrle’s one of the young talents we have. Against United we played with four attacking players – Schurrle, De Bruyne, Oscar and Hazard – who are all under 22, so we are speaking about kids.
‘He’s one of them and we have more. He’s a kid who needs to be better, needs to learn and needs to use every minute on the pitch and every training session to be better. The Premier League is a different competition and he needs time to adapt, but he’s one of the most important talents in Germany.
‘Oscar’s an important player for us, he’s one of the deals Chelsea made in the last year that has proved to be fantastic because now he’s a regular for the national side and important for Chelsea.
‘The kid is a great talent and despite the fact he’s still young he has some maturity and experience. The fact he plays for a national team with so much prestige and so much pressure, like Brazil, makes him even better.
‘The Confederations Cup was very important for him, he’s a humble boy, very simple and open, so there is a great future for him.’
On the subject of Juan Mata, Mourinho responded emphatically to reports in the media regarding the future of the Spain international.
‘There is now a tendency where everybody speaks and asks about the players that didn’t play, not just in England but all over,’ he explained. ‘He didn’t play against Manchester United, that was my option and I always have a reason for my option. I feel that it’s my duty to explain to the players the reasons for my choices, but I don’t feel it’s my duty to explain to the media the reasons for my choices.
‘Everything is clear between me and the player, we have no problem. I think he’s a very important player for us; he wants to stay, I want him to stay, the club want him to stay, so there is no story. We have a lot of options in the positions behind the striker but these are also players who can play wide.
‘You look at Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, you go to any big team, Tottenham, Bayern, they have many options, because people want to compete in different competitions.
‘After this match we have a double international fixture, and after that we play consecutively in the Champions League and Capital One Cup, so we need players in large numbers, we can’t do it with just 10 or 12, we need 20, and that’s the reason why we’ve tried to strengthen our squad.’
Mourinho’s opposite number, meanwhile, reported he is hopeful his two deep-lying midfielders will be available to play a part in the game. Bastian Schweinsteiger has recovered from an ankle injury and will train this evening, while Javi Martinez, who missed much of Bayern’s pre-season campaign, could also feature.