History is on AC Milan's side when they meet FC Porto in the UEFA Super Cup on 29 August.
By Pete Sanderson
AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti need look no further than the history books if he wishes to find a way to rally his troops ahead of the UEFA Super Cup on 29 August.
His Milan side have had the upper hand in all but two of their previous encounters with FC Porto in European competition. But it was Porto who struck the first blow, knocking the Italians out of the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1979/80 thanks to a 60th-minute goal from Duda in a first round second-leg tie.
Milan had to wait 14 years to exact their revenge, overcoming Porto on their way to the 1992/93 UEFA Champions League final. Unfortunately, the 2-0 aggregate win was scant consolation for Milan as they then lost to a solitary strike from Olympique de Marseille's Basile Boli in a largely forgettable final for Fabio Capello's side.
Their next encounter was in the group phase a year later when Milan were 3-0 victors. Capello, arguably the most successful coach of his generation, admitted afterwards that no team in the world could compete with the Rossoneri in full flow. "Not many sides will be able to overturn Porto in that fashion," said Capello.
"We defended well from the back thanks to Marcel Desailly and looked sharp going forward with [Daniele] Massaro and [Dejan] Savicevic very dangerous. Porto are a strong outfit but we were formidable today. We did a lot of homework on them and it paid off - they struggled to cope with our speed and our tactics."
Indeed, Porto may have responded with a goalless draw in the return fixture but it was Capello's "formidable" side who went on to lift the trophy, crushing FC Barcelona 4-0 in the final.
Jardel runs riot
But perhaps the most vivid encounter between the sides was their epic game in the Champions League in September 1996, after they had again been drawn in the same group. And it was Porto who recorded a rare victory over the Rossoneri as the Italians struggled to come to terms with the silky skills of Brazilian debutant Mário Jardel. The striker scored twice in the final 15 minutes as Porto beat Milan 3-2. The return match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Jardel still recalls that dramatic evening as if it were yesterday. "Scoring against a top team like Milan, and in the San Siro, especially after coming off the bench as a substitute, and deciding the match was an outstanding start in Europe for me," said the Brazilian. "Those two goals are unforgettable. I was aware that I was being watched by millions of people around Europe and after those two goals people began talking about Jardel."
Doubtless Porto's latest Brazilian-born maestro, Deco, will be anxious to reproduce his countryman's heroics in the Super Cup final in Monaco.