With the draw for the Champions League group stages taking place on Thursday, the appetite for club football’s greatest cup competition is only going to grow over the coming weeks ahead of the first round of matches in mid-September.
We don’t have to wait too much longer to witness some heavyweights of the game in action, however, with Chelsea and Bayern Munich coming to blows in the UEFA Super Cup tomorrow (Friday).
It’s a repeat of the 2012 Champions League final when the Blues overcame Die Roten at the Allianz Arena on penalties to lift the European Cup on an evening filled with tense drama.
This time out, though, it will be Bayern claiming bragging rights in Prague as it is they who currently carry the label of European champions, overcoming their disappointment from a year earlier to defeat Borussia Dortmund in last season’s Wembley showpiece.
Just as Bayern were able to set things straight in the Champions League in 2013, winning the Europa League last term gives Chelsea a similar opportunity in the Super Cup.
In the last Super Cup fixture to be held in Monaco’s Stade Louis II stadium, a Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid defeated the Blues 4-1 in 2012, so they will be hoping for a somewhat better performance this time out.
With old foes Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola coming face-to-face in the dugout once more, this year’s Super Cup promises to be just as exciting.
As the clock ticks down to kick off, Bleacher Report looks at some of the key battles that will take place.
He has been Chelsea’s best player thus far this season, so the Blues know if they’re to enjoy any success against Bayern Munich on Friday evening, they will need Eden Hazard on top of his game.
It will be a lot easier said than done for the Belgian youngster, though, as standing before him will be Philipp Lahm, one of European football’s most able defenders.
Hazard will look to get at the 29-year-old German and cause him problems from the off, but this contest will be equally intriguing whenever Bayern are on the front foot.
Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his desire for Hazard to add more defensive qualities to his game and thus far he has been highly praised for his new-found discipline.
Facing Lahm will be the ultimate test as Bayern’s right-back is equally effective going forward as he is defensively, so Hazard will have to be aware of that threat.
He’s going to need to draw upon those performances when he faces Mario Mandzukic in Prague, too, as the Bayern Munich striker is a man capable of doing to Chelsea what Falcao did last term in the Super Cup.
It was a first-half hat-trick from the Colombian that sealed last year’s Super Cup, with Falcao putting in an excellent display to inspire Atletico Madrid to a 4-1 victory, so the Blues and Terry need no reminding as to the damage a powerful striker can do.
Chelsea have conceded just one goal this term, but Mandzukic is leading the way in Bayern’s scoring charts already, averaging a goal every other game.
With both the striker and defender in good form, this is one duel where the dominance of either player could ultimately decide the outcome of the 2013 Super Cup.
Just like at the other end of the pitch, the success of this defender-striker battle will go a long way into deciding the outcome of the 2013 Super Cup.
Unlike Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic, however, Fernando Torres comes with a little more baggage surrounding his fragile confidence and position in Jose Mourinho’s new-look Chelsea outfit.
We saw the best and worst of the Spaniard in European competition last term. He was left out of the decisive clash with Juventus in Turin in November, a game that ultimately decided the Blues’ 2012-13 Champions League fate, but later rebuilt his reputation to some degree by scoring a fine solo goal in the Europa League final.
Dante is a defender who takes few prisoners, so Torres needs to rediscover that killer instinct come Friday and get his goalscoring account for the season up and running.
Bayern have given away a few opportunities in the Bundesliga already this term, so there is a suggestion of fragility in defence, which Torres should attack and look to exploit.
Now, there is a doubt surrounding the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger after he limped out of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Freiburg. But for the good of the game, every neutral will be hoping the Bayern Munich midfielder is fit come Friday.
If he is, a Frank Lampard-Schweinsteiger combination in the middle of the pitch is going to be a mouth-watering prospect.
For all the attacking talent on display in Prague, the battle for supremacy in midfield will be the most fascinating.
Lampard is a seasoned professional with a track record of getting the better of his opposite number, but 29-year-old Schweinsteiger is equally fearsome and doesn’t roll over easy. He will ensure Lampard is kept busy for the entire 90 minutes.
Schweinsteiger has a point to prove against Chelsea after his penalty miss in the Champions League final, too, so he will be fired up for this encounter.
Despite the stars on display in this year’s Super Cup, all eyes will be on the dugouts come kickoff, with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola coming face-to-face once more.
The pair have had previous encounters, of course, dating back to Mourinho’s time in charge at Inter Milan when he knocked Guardiola’s Barcelona off their perch to lift the 2010 Champions League.
When Mourinho took control at Real Madrid the following year, their rivalry only grew until Guardiola departed the Nou Camp in 2012.
But how are we dressing this up? It is Mourinho vs. Guardiola? Or better still, the man Chelsea wanted against the man who was apparently their second choice after Bayern snapped up Guardiola to be their new manager?
Either way, their exchanges on the touchline will be all the entertainment we need, regardless of what happens on the pitch.