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Third time lucky for Madrid?

Vicente del Bosque is confident that his Real Madrid CF team can end their UEFA Super Cup jinx.

By Kevin Ashby

Vicente del Bosque, the coach of Real Madrid CF, is confident his side can win, and win well, the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco after two defeats in the traditional European season curtain-raiser in recent years.

'Exhausting' campaign
Madrid qualified for the event the hard way: negotiating 17 matches to win the UEFA Champions League, a feat Del Bosque called "exhausting", for the third time in five seasons. On the back of their European successes in 1998 and 2000, Madrid entered the Super Cup as favourites only to undone by Chelsea FC, holders of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and Galatasaray SK, who had triumphed in the UEFA Cup.

New format
Mario Jardel was the man on the mark for the Turkish side in 2000. His 'golden goal' the first to settle a European club competition by such a method. Today's game will see a new format introduced, if required, whereby the game will continue to the end of either half in extra time if a goal is struck at any point in the 15 minutes.

Historic victory?
Madrid and Feyenoord thus have a chance to become the first team in history to win a match after 105 minutes. Although Del Bosque approves of the new format, particularly its ability to "give you another life", he will hope that the European champions have the cup sewn up within regulation time.

UEFA award
"It is going to be a very important match for our club and we are happy to have won the right to participate in it," said Del Bosque, the recipient of UEFA's Coach of the Year award in the principality last night. "Now we are here we are going to try to win - the history of our club dictates that we try to win things playing as well as we possibly can."

'Brilliant team'
Bert van Marwijk, the coach of Feyenoord, rates Madrid as "the best in the world", while Del Bosque was equally complimentary in his assessment of the Rotterdammers. "They really are one of the best sides in Europe at the moment," he said. "Feyenoord are a brilliant team and it will be by no means easy for us."

Convincing victory
Del Bosque feels Madrid have been "looking good" in pre-season ahead of this fixture, their first competitive game in 2002/03. Feyenoord, in contrast, have already played four times, including back-to-back Champions League victories against Fenerbahçe SK. The Spanish club were in fine fettle last weekend, though, defeating Romanian side FC National Bucuresti 5-2, with Javier Portillo, at 20 years old the Santiago Bernabéu's latest phenomenon, scoring twice.

Rumours ignored
While Portillo continues to push for a regular place in the first team, rumours persist that Madrid's attacking options could change with the departure of old and arrival of new personnel. Del Bosque insists that the speculation will not affect his team's preparation, or the side he sends out at the Stade Louis II. "We are just thinking about the match at the moment, the rumours will have no bearing on our lineup," said the moustachioed coach.

Five trophies
The nine-times European Champion Clubs' Cup winners covet five trophies this season, with the Super Cup Del Bosque's immediate priority. Success in Monaco will sound a warning to the rest of the continent's elite that Madrid are up and running and on the hunt for further honours. They will have been warned.