AC Milan have an unparalleled record in the UEFA Super Cup, while FC Porto are unbeaten.
By Pete Sanderson
Winning the UEFA Super Cup is a tall order. Not only must you claim one of the two major European trophies to qualify - you then must overcome the victors in the other.
Unsurprisingly, then, not counting the unofficial version won by AFC Ajax in 1972/73 that was followed by victory in the next season's first official contest, only one side has ever successfully defended the Super Cup. That team were this year's contenders, and UEFA Champions League holders, AC Milan.
As European champions in 1989 they made their first appearance since losing to Ajax in 1973/74. Milan faced FC Barcelona - the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup holders, who always competed for the trophy until 1999. After a 1-1 draw in Spain in the first leg Milan won the return at the San Siro by a 1-0 scoreline.
Twelve months later, after retaining the European Champion Clubs' Cup, Milan took on UC Sampdoria in an all-Italian affair, the first time the match had been a domestic meeting. They drew 1-1 in Genoa, but Milan triumphed 2-0 at home.
Milan are already this fixture's masters in another sense, as the only team with three victories. The third came in 1994/95, a 2-0 aggregate win against Arsenal FC, courtesy of second-leg goals at the San Siro from Zvonimir Boban and Daniele Massaro.
Sixth time lucky?
Another record already held by Milan is for the number of appearances in the match itself. This year's encounter will be their sixth - the victories against Barcelona, Sampdoria and Arsenal and loss against Ajax in the inaugural year and then Parma AC in 1993/94 - putting them two ahead of FC Bayern München, who have lost in every appearance, and Liverpool FC.
Celebrations for Porto
Porto, on the other hand, will be making only their second bid for the trophy, but unlike Milan they have a perfect record so far. In 1987/88, as European champions, they took on Ajax and a 1-0 win in each leg sparked celebrations in Portugal.
For both teams this will be the first appearance since the tournament became a one-off fixture in Monaco in 1998, and also the only time they have competed following the admission of the UEFA Cup winners to the match. Porto have qualified that way, and can take heart from the fact that Real Madrid CF's victory against Feyenoord last year was the first by the Champions League holders since the switch.
However, one difference between the teams is their form in the seasons of their previous victories. Milan could not have followed up their first triumph better, as they retained the European Cup.
Old foes waiting
A year later, and they reached the last eight, only to fall to eventual finalists Olympique de Marseille. Having beaten Arsenal in 1994/95, Milan then made it to their third straight Champions League final, only to suffer a 1-0 defeat against old foes Ajax.
Porto, on the other hand, had already failed in their defence of the European Cup by the time they entered the Super Cup, Madrid ending their campaign in the second round.
Reason for hope
But both should be encouraged by the fact that three of the last four teams to win the Super Cup have gone on to reach at least the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Reason for optimism when the Champions League draw is made the day before this year's contest on 29 August.