The players of AC Milan and FC Porto are ready to go again in the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco.
The sides will compete for the UEFA Super Cup tonight, with the match kicking off at 20.45CET at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, and both are eager to get their campaigns off to a flying start. Porto may have the edge in terms of preparation, after two games of their domestic title defence, but Milan, who begin their Serie A season on Monday, are past masters in the Super Cup with their three wins the most of any team.
Will to win
Both clubs arrived in the principality, which is staging its sixth Super Cup, on Thursday and were quick to express their will to win. Attention has been particularly focused on Milan's Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa, who is eager to impress against the team from his homeland, and Derlei, the Brazilian forward who top scored in the UEFA Cup to help Porto claim the trophy.
"For me this is something quite unusual," admitted Rui Costa. "Not only is the Super Cup an important cup, but I will be confronted by a team from my own country. I know them very well. It is a very special match and I'd like to give all I can."
Much has been made of a possible head-to-head with his national team colleague Deco, so often the source of Porto's creativity. But Rui Costa was keen to play down such talk. "It will be eleven players against eleven. I don't see it as a duel. We have always got on very well in the national team."
The former SL Benfica man added that it would be "a very balanced match" and that "it may be the magic of a certain player that tips the scales one way or another". While he may be the catalyst for such a moment of inspiration in the Milan ranks, there is also the likelihood that Derlei will be on hand to finish any flashes of genius Porto can muster.
Typically, the striker is playing down his own importance in favour of the team effort. "We have excellent players in our side. We know what we want and we know we are ready to give our very best to win."
Derlei too believed it would be an even contest, despite the big names in the Milan squad. "They are top-level players but once we are on the pitch we forget names and only think they are our opponents. Irrespective of who they are, we are going to give our best."
Plenty to gain
He added: "We will need to concentrate throughout the match. It is extremely important." With the chance to send a statement of intent to the rest of Europe before the UEFA Champions League group stage, along with €1.6m prize money for the winners, few would disagree.