Chelsea FC won the first UEFA Super Cup match played in Monaco back in 1998, featuring a certain Roberto Di Matteo in midfield – with the same man now at the helm, the European champions are out to claim the last edition to take place at the Stade Louis II.
Di Matteo was an integral part of that successful Chelsea side of 14 years ago. Interim manager when leading the Blues to the UEFA Champions League crown in May, he was formally installed over the summer and fully intends to "bring the trophy home" when they take on Club Atlético de Madrid. The 42-year-old said: "We shouldn't forget how hard winning the Champions League was – that long road. The Super Cup is a European trophy and I feel very strongly about it."
Under another Italian, Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea defeated Real Madrid CF to lift that 1998 UEFA Super Cup. Now they face another Spanish side, though Di Matteo does not read too much into that. "It doesn't matter if it's a Spanish club or another one. They are a very good team – they won the Europa League and have started this season in good fashion. I've seen both their games and they have lots of quality."
Chelsea have begun this term quite nicely themselves, yet Di Matteo is not completely satisfied. "I'm pleased with the start we've had and the way we've been playing. We've got players we need to integrate and they need to adapt their qualities to our team and shape. It's always good to start well, but I know we can improve."
Atlético themselves were on the winners' podium just two years ago. Coach Diego Simeone says Chelsea have "the edge on paper", but history shows the favourites' tag may count for little in this competition: since 2000, only five of the 12 winners have been the team that walked away with the continent's premier club prize the previous May. A one-off game, it seems, can produce unexpected results – a scenario Simeone hopes will repeat itself on Friday night.
"They are the favourites, we're not going lie, but we must be humble and competitive," Simeone said. "We must show that in one match it's not who's best on paper, it's who is best on the day." The key, Simeone says, is to approach the match as his side did when they won the UEFA Europa League with a 3-0 victory against Athletic Club three months ago.
"We shouldn't think about winning, we should think about how to win," the 42-year-old added. "We know there's an enormous prize at the end and what we want to delve into is how to achieve it. We're playing a game with high stakes but we need to focus on the match, not the cup."
A 4-0 Liga success on Monday – with Athletic again the victims – has put Atlético in high spirits. "I think we've done some excellent preparatory work," continued the Argentinian, who took the reins last December with the Rojiblancos languishing in mid-table. "We've got a very competitive squad with Juanfran and Filipe Luis available again [after injury]. We've had a good win and have a positive attitude towards tomorrow's final."
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