How Chelsea Will Line Up Against Bayern Munich
After a solid if unspectacular start to his second coming at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho now faces the toughest test so far of his short reign, meeting a familiar foe in the process.
Of course, the European Super Cup, which Chelsea lost 4-1 last year, sees two of Europe's most successful sides in recent history matched up together. But ultimately, it's the hyped-up first meeting between Pep Guardiola and Mourinho at their respective new clubs.
After Jupp Heynckes led the German side to an unprecedented Treble last season, Guardiola's difficult task was to maintain the success of the team whilst also stamping his own authority on the team.
And while the Spaniard has brought in Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze, the departures of Mario Gomez and Luis Gustavo have raised questions about whether he is trying to change too much too soon. The start to the season has been steady if unspectacular, with Die Roten picking up seven points from their opening three games.
Mourinho has enjoyed a similar unbeaten run in the Premier League after their 0-0 draw at Manchester United on Monday, and will be looking to capitalise on Bayern Munich's vulnerable state, with the German champions conceding a late equaliser away to a less-fancied Freiburg side.
The two sides go into the clash with a similar level of strength and quality in the squad. Today we take a look at how "The Special One" may set his side up in Prague on Friday evening.
GK: Petr Cech
For Chelsea's number one choice keeper, games do not get much bigger than this. Of course, the Champions League remains one of the most prestigious competitions in World Football, but for Cech, this year's European Super Cup has some sentimental value.
The 30-year-old will be playing on his native turf at the Eden Stadium, home to Sparta Prague where he started his career over a decade ago. A strong shot stopper and a real leader from the back, Cech is seen as the spine of the team, along with John Terry and Frank Lampard.
One of the most commanding goalkeepers in World Football, it's a testament to his ability that he picked up his 200th clean sheet for Chelsea against Manchester United. As a result, the team will be relying on him for a good performance between the sticks.
RB: Cesar Azpilicueta
After a busy summer with Spain at the Confederations Cup, the Spanish full-back has had to wait patiently for his chance to show Mourinho why he deserves to play ahead of Branislav Ivanovic at right back.
The 24-year-old featured regularly under Rafa Benitez last season and the vast improvement was evident as the season went on, with Azpilicueta receiving recognition for his performances by winning his first senior cap for Spain.
While he is a pacy, energetic defender, the former Marseille man is far from a finished article and perhaps lacks the tactical discipline that Mourinho prefers his defenders to have. That said, this would be the ideal opportunity to prove him wrong and show why he is being tipped to become Spain's permanent right back option.
CB: Gary Cahill
Many felt that due to his inconsistencies in the Chelsea defence last season, Gary Cahill may have been on the way out this summer. The 27-year-old played over 40 games last season, but was mainly third-choice behind David Luiz and John Terry, and it was predicted Mourinho would adopt the same strategy.
However, Luiz has aggravated an injury while on duty with Brazil and that has given Cahill the chance to prove his worth to the team, with the England international starting all three of the West London club's games in the current campaign.
There's no prizes for guessing why, as Cahill is a real presence in the air while also committing himself to putting in a last-ditch challenge every now and then. Of course, his technical ability isn't the greatest, and that could be a concern against a high-pressing side like Bayern Munich. On the other hand, one would expect Cahill to have another solid game at the back.
CB: John Terry
After falling out of favour with Benitez last season, the leader of the pack has been reinvigorated by Mourinho's return, and will no doubt be delighted to be playing in another European final. Terry missed both the Champions League and Europa League finals due to suspension and injury, but is all set to start with David Luiz not yet match fit.
The Blues appear to be a different side when the 32-year-old is at the heart of defence, and he certainly leads by example challenging for every tackle and showing a never-say-die spirit. His pace may have suffered as he approaches in the latter years of his career, but the Blues require intelligence up against Mario Mandzukic, and there's no better reader of the game than Terry.
The Barking-born centre half may have had his issues off the pitch, but there aren't too many players who are more passionate about the game than the former England captain. And Mourinho should be confident that Terry can inspire his teammates to victory on Friday night.
LB: Ashley Cole
Widely regarded as one of the best left-backs of his generation, Ashley Cole may find his England place under threat, but he still remains a key part of Mourinho's plans at Chelsea. Understudy Ryan Bertrand is pushing the veteran full-back for his place in the side but as long as the 32-year-old stays consistent, he still has at least two years left in him at the highest level.
He may not be as fast as he was once was, but one aspect of Cole's game which is yet to wither away is his stamina. Even when the end of the game is approaching, the former Arsenal man can be seen racing down the left-hand side. His attacking runs may be limited due to the threat posed by Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, but Mourinho should be confident that a defender with Cole's quality can handle the world-class duo.
The Brazilian midfielder will want nothing more than to start the game against Bayern Munich due to last year's heartbreak. The 26-year-old scored a crucial goal against Barcelona in the semifinal, only to pick up a booking to rule him out of the final in Munich.
And after doing so well to get his teammates there, the former Benfica man will be expecting Mourinho to select him for a fourth straight game, having started all three Premier League games. And it's fair to say he'll be needed, with a seemingly endless supply of energy and stamina, the tireless midfielder will be used to close down the likes of Javi Martinez in midfield.
His role will be crucial in helping Chelsea win the midfield battle and seems to be a surefire favourite to keep his place in the starting lineup.
CM: John Obi Mikel
He's only featured for a matter of minutes in Chelsea's reign under Mourinho so far, but Mikel is poised to be given a rare start against Bayern Munich. Having performed superbly in the Champions League final, the Nigerian defensive midfielder may be called upon if Frank Lampard is rested for the tie in Prague.
The 26-year-old is more than capable of breaking up the play if needed to, and additionally, it will be crucial for Mourinho to have a player who is happy to hold his position in the centre of midfield, almost in the 'Makelele' role. A tough-tackling midfielder, Mikel will be desperate to get his season started with a solid performance if picked.
RW: Andre Schurrle
Doubts were raised about whether Andre Schurrle was a Mourinho signing or a target purely of the club. But it now it seems the German is highly rated by the Portuguese coach, who used the 22-year-old as a lone striker against Manchester United.
The experiment may have backfired, but the decision was more symbolic than some might think. To start Schurrle ahead of Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba was a bold move, but showed the faith Mourinho has in his new signing.
Schurrle is a player who has displayed incredible work rate since he joined the club, and possesses a decent level of technique too. The Germany international still needs time to settle, but playing against a side he knows from his time at Bayer Leverkusen will be an advantage Chelsea will be looking to use come Friday evening.
AM: Juan Mata
It's been a summer of uncertainty for Juan Mata, but the Spaniard must put all the speculation of a move away from Stamford Bridge behind him if Mourinho selects him against Bayern Munich. With Mata barely having three weeks off in the past 18 months, the 25-year-old has visibly struggled for fitness and has seen Oscar take on his role in the playmaker position.
But for all the Brazilian's quality, Mata is surely on another level. There are very few players in the world who can find a pass and execute it as perfectly as the Spain international does, and his total of 18 goals last season was crucial to Chelsea's success.
He has arguably been Chelsea's best performer in the past two seasons and to say Mourinho would want to sell him in nonsensical. The Portuguese manager confirmed Mata is staying and with that, Chelsea can now look forward to reaping the benefits of his presence again, starting with a dynamic display against Bayern.
LW: Eden Hazard
It's a way of showing how brilliant Eden Hazard was in his first season that he is now regarded as one of the first names on the teamsheet at Chelsea. A £32 million signing from Lille last summer, the 22-year-old enjoyed an impressive campaign, reaching double figures for both goals and assists in 2012-13.
The Belgian plays with an incredible level of pace, dancing around the opposition and displays a tremendous sense of balance and agility to weave his way through the defence. If there was to be one criticism of his style, it's that he doesn't shoot enough. He's certainly capable, with wonder strikes against Stoke and Sparta Prague.
He will be an integral part of the Chelsea team for years to come and against Bayern, Guardiola will need a top performance from his captain Phillip Lahm if he is to keep Hazard quiet.
CF: Fernando Torres
For the first time in his Chelsea career, the pressure is off Fernando Torres, and perhaps that will be a turning point in his fortunes. The Spaniard had to deal with being on the bench while Didier Drogba led the side to glory in 2011-12, and in the previous campaign, the burden to score goals fell on his shoulders too often.
Now though, with Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba providing competition, Torres will be itching to get the nod against Bayern and condemn Guardiola's side to defeat, as he did in the Champions League semifinal in 2012.
Off the back of his best campaign for the Blues where he scored 23 goals, Mourinho has suggested the 29-year-old will be his preferred starter in attack, and a goal against the European champions certainly wouldn't harm his chances of staying in the side.
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