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Porto ready as Maldini returns

AC Milan have been boosted by the return of Paolo Maldini but FC Porto are eager for more success.

The glamour and glitz of Monaco could provide a perfect setting for two of Europe's most attractive teams to take centre stage in the UEFA Super Cup.

Winning start
UEFA Champions League holders AC Milan and their UEFA Cup counterparts FC Porto meet in the Stade Louis II on Friday night, each eager to collect some more silverware before their respective European campaigns get under way. Both teams have won this European season curtain-raiser before, with Milan taking the trophy three times to Porto's once.

'Always demanding'
Certainly the chance for each to face one of Europe's élite in a showpiece occasion will be more than welcome with the challenges ahead. But for now Porto coach José Mourinho is concerned only about Milan. "We are aware that a final is a final, regardless of the opponent," he said. "A final against an Italian team is always more demanding, they have a strong defence, high-level players and there is considerable economic power behind them.

Sporting waiting
"We will watch our game and play as we always do, loyal to our principles," he added, unconcerned that his team were due to play a league fixture against Sporting Clube de Portugal on Tuesday. "We are very pleased to be here, to participate in a match that many teams would like to participate in and so we will stick to the principles of our game. This is something different, but our motivation is there."

Landmark occasion
Mourinho claimed that adding the UEFA Super Cup to last season's European success and domestic double would be "a landmark in the history of Porto". And, with attention focused on the principality from across Europe and beyond, he was confident the teams would "provide a beautiful match".

Deco and Derlei
Helping to make that happen within Porto's ranks could be new faces José Bosingwa and Benni McCarthy along with last season's heroes, Deco and Derlei, while veterans Vitor Baía and captain Jorge Costa, just back from a knee injury, also remain. However, Nuno Valente is suspended, after his red card in the UEFA Cup final against Celtic FC.

Maldini returns
Milan have also been busy in the summer, acquiring Brazilian duo Cafu and Kaká, along with experienced defender Giuseppe Pancaro and renewing deals with Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso. Only Alessandro Costacurta and Martin Laursen are out of contention with club captain Paolo Maldini surprising everyone by recovering from an ankle knock. "We have prepared very well," said Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti. "What is also good is the return of the captain. He is a very important player."

Pride in victory
Ancelotti is hoping to recapture the spirit of that night in May when Juventus FC were overcome on penalties to claim the European Champion Clubs' Cup. "We returned from Manchester with a sense of great pride. Of course we played with our hearts and I hope we are going to continue in this frame of mind." This match could also go to penalties although extra time, featuring the silver-goal rule will come first. This means if one team is ahead at the end of the first 15-minute period, the match is over.

Up for grabs
Another incentive for Milan is that beating Porto would leave them needing just one more victory to claim the UEFA Super Cup for keeps. To take the trophy outright a team must either win it three years in a row, or five times overall. As the elegant cup, weighing 5kgs and standing 42.5cm high, was designed and crafted at the Bertoni workshop in Milan, Porto may have a battle against destiny on their hands as well as against the likes of Andriy Shevchenko and Rui Costa.