Mourinho must outwit Guardiola to improve dismal record against his nemesis
Whatever his speciality truly is, we can rule out maths. Jose Mourinho launched a robust defence of his record against Pep Guardiola — but it just didn’t add up.
On the eve of the UEFA Super Cup final against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich here, Mourinho seemed less than amused to be confronted with a set of statistics suggesting his nemesis had the upper hand in their meetings over the space of three seasons.
‘You have played Guardiola’s teams 15 times and only won three times,’ said a voice from the back of the room. ‘Why is it so difficult to beat his teams?’
He's behind you: Mourinho trails Guardiola in their duels
In charge: Mourinho shouts orders during a Chelsea training session ahead of the Super Cup final
New club: Bayern Munich manager Guardiola takes training in Prague
Mourinho bristled. He set his jaw in contemptuous opposition. ‘Your statistics are wrong,’ he said.
‘Very wrong. Very wrong, because — but I don’t want to discuss that because it’s not important. I’ll just say it’s wrong. Go there and see what happened with Inter in the Champions League semi-final. The league records in Spain. The Copa del Rey in Spain. The Super Cup in Spain. You are very, very wrong. But it’s not important.’
Having established how unimportant it was, he continued.
‘This is not me against him, it’s club against club,’ he said. ‘That’s not important. I just know that I won the Champions League semi-final with Inter Milan. I won the Spanish Cup final in Valencia. I won the Super Cup in Spain. I was champion in Spain. I won the match of the title in Barcelona with Real Madrid. Maybe you are right and I am wrong, but I don’t care. It’s not important for me.’
And didn’t it just sound that way? So, similarly, it is utterly unimportant to point out that the original assertion, from statistics compiled by UEFA, was right. Guardiola and Mourinho have played on 15 occasions, Guardiola winning seven times, with five draws and three victories for Mourinho.
Guardiola’s teams have scored 26 goals, Mourinho’s 16. In only two of those matches did Mourinho’s club keep a clean sheet. And he did not beat Guardiola in Spain’s Super Cup. He beat his successor at Barcelona, Tito Vilanova.
Preparation: Chelsea players stretch as Mourinho looks on
Venue: Prague's Eden Arena will host the match between Chelsea and Bayern Munich
Pole to pole: Mourinho has much to ponder ahead of the clash with Guardiola's side
From the front: Chelsea captain John Terry during training
Time check: Mourinho at a press conference in Prague
Mourinho’s three victories came in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final in 2010, the final of the Copa Del Rey in 2011 and their last La Liga meeting in 2012. A meagre return for such a great rivalry. But, as Mourinho continued to point out, it really didn’t matter.
‘It isn’t about me and Pep,’ he said. ‘It’s about a cup where the European champions play the Europa League champions. Pep is not European champion and I’m not Europa League champion. We’re just coaching these teams now. So it’s not about us.’
Yet, to most observers, it is. The UEFA Super Cup has always struggled for credibility within the European calendar and the venue for successive finals offers the clue. Since 1998 it has been played at the soulless Stade Louis II stadium in Monaco to scant interest.
The last time the fixture attracted a crowd above 18,500 was in 1997 when it was still being played over two legs at the homes of the finalists. It is on tour now, the Monte Carlo experiment thankfully abandoned, but this is no stellar show.
The plan is to take the match to good football cities rarely blessed with Champions League football. Prague’s Eden Stadion hosts this year — capacity 21,000 — followed by the Cardiff City Stadium in 12 months and Tbilisi in Georgia in 2015. Last year, Chelsea lost 4-1 to Atletico Madrid, Falcao’s brilliance matching the European champions’ perceived half-heartedness.
Is it any wonder that attention is falling on the two managers?
Guardiola was also attempting to play down the personal rivalry although, by failing to reel off a series of results and conquests with a curled lip, his protests carried slightly more conviction. ‘The record is done,’ he said, asked about his mastery over Mourinho.
‘It’s just for the books. Football is the moment. Tomorrow is a challenge. I have won games and lost games. My past is my past, part of my life, in my brain and heart. Records are for me to remember when I’m a grandfather.
‘I know what it is like to play against Mourinho. When you are in good position and lose the ball, you are done. When you lose the ball, his quick counter-attacks make him a master in these actions. He’s an excellent trainer.’
Handshake: Mourinho greets Guardiola ahead of the first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Bernabeu in 2011
Ecstatic: Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes confronts Mourinho after Inter Milan reached the Champions League final in 2010 (left), but it was Guardiola who was celebrating a year later as Barcelona got past Real Madrid to reach European club football's showpiece match
And looking to lay down a marker as Chelsea manager, too, even without thoughts of revenge. Mourinho still lists his Community Shield win in 2005 among his Chelsea trophies, so will have no qualms about claiming a trophy as unloved as the UEFA Super Cup, too.
Talk of an experimental line-up is fanciful. Mourinho may find room for the out-of-favour Juan Mata, or even Fernando Torres, in his starting XI but don’t expect too many gambles. He will know the worth of returning a trophy to Stamford Bridge within the first month of the season. He knows to beat treble winners Bayern Munich will be a statement of intent announced throughout Europe, too, no matter the occasion.
‘It is always difficult to play against Bayern,’ said Mourinho. ‘I’ve done so many times, in the last years, going back to 2004 with Chelsea. It doesn’t matter the system or the players, it is a powerful team, a big club. Tactics don’t matter. Bayern’s strength is the team.
One direction: Guardiola shouts his instructions during bayern training
Close to his chest: Guardiola has a winning record in the matches he has played against Mourinho
Chase: Bayern's Toni Kroos wins the ball during training
‘It is a team of players in the best moment of their careers. I guess the average age is 27 or 28 — Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Mario Mandzukic, all in the best competitions year after year, not just with the club but their national teams.
‘They come from a season last year when they showed they were perfect, because only perfect teams can win the treble. So that’s their best quality: this incredible power and personality that they have.’
One might say the same of Mourinho. He will need something more to outwit Guardiola, however. This is one numbers game he cannot afford to keep losing.