Feyenoord will be keen to prove they can match Europe's elite when they tackle Real Madrid CF.
After showing their passion by defeating Fenerbahçe SK in Istanbul on Tuesday to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, Feyenoord will be keen to prove they possess the necessary polish to compete with Europe's elite when they tackle Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco tonight.
The Dutch side, European Champion Clubs' Cup winners in 1970, lifted the UEFA Cup on home soil in May, defeating BV Borussia Dortmund 3-2, to qualify for a meeting with Madrid at the Stade Louis II. The Spanish side are no strangers to the principality: this will be their third appearance in the Super Cup since 1998, having arrived in Monaco as Champions League winners on each occasion.
Artistry and resilience
Madrid were the outstanding side in European competition last season, mixing artistry with steely resilience to tease their way to a ninth crown with a 2-1 victory against Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Hampden Park, in Glasgow. Zinedine Zidane was the architect of the final triumph, the world's costliest player scoring an exquisite volley to add to Raúl González's early strike.
If Madrid are to win their first Super Cup - Feyenoord are also chasing their maiden success in the competition - they will look once again to the extravagant talents of Zidane and Raúl. But Vicente del Bosque's side will be lacking proper match fitness with the Primera División season yet to start, and pre-season has seen mixed results for Madrid against fellow European hopefuls, a win against Liverpool FC countered with a loss to FC Bayern München.
In the groove
By contrast, the side from Rotterdam have already found an early season groove. Feyenoord are unbeaten in four outings so far, including home and away victories against Fenerbahçe in Champions League qualifying, Japanese international Shinji Ono finding the net in both legs. Coach Bert van Marwijk sees a defeat of Madrid as the perfect conclusion to "two tough weeks early in the season".
Sour for success
Perhaps distracted by their European exertions, both Feyenoord and Madrid finished third in their domestic leagues last season, positions they will be keen to improve on this term. Victory in Monaco could provide the spur for further success, a point emphasised by Zidane.
"We were absent at the beginning of the championship, which cost us a lot of points. Madrid wants the Super Cup and whatever the club wants, I want it too. It is important for Real to win all the trophies we contest."
The Super Cup will see the clubs pitted against each other for the first time in almost 37 years. En route to their sixth European success in 1965/66, Madrid lost 2-1 in the Netherlands before Feyenoord were brushed aside at the Santiago Bernabéu, Ferenc Puskás, Los Merengues' scorer in Rotterdam, scoring four times in a 5-0 success.
Such an emphatic scoreline is unlikely to be repeated in Monaco, indeed Madrid's last scrape with Dutch opposition ended in home and away losses to AFC Ajax during their first Champions League campaign in 1995/96. Fernando Hierro and Raúl, who made his competition debut in Amsterdam, are the only survivors from those encounters.
Dallas in charge
Scottish referee Hugh Dallas, the fourth official at the 2002 FIFA World Cup final, will be the man in the middle in Monaco. A familiar face to Madrid, he has taken charge of them four times in the Champions League, two of which have ended in defeats by Bayern.
In addition to providing a new competition winner, the Super Cup will see, if required, the new 'golden goal' format applied for the first time. Under the new rules if a team scores in the first period of extra time the game will continue until half-time – meaning Friday could see the first match in history decided after 105 minutes.
Played to a conclusion
If, after 105 minutes, the scores remain level, the match will be played to a conclusion regardless of any scoring. So extra time will last either 15 or 30 minutes, providing a team with the opportunity to fight back should they fall behind. Madrid could have done with the rule when they lost on the 'golden goal' to Galatasaray SK, with Mario Jardel on target, in the 2000 Super Cup.