Liverpool FC and PFC CSKA Moskva meet at the Stade Louis II for the UEFA Super Cup final tonight with both teams full of competitive spirit.
Traditionally, the Monaco showpiece is the first significant action of the season for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup holders as they plot a path to further success. Take last season for example when FC Porto and Valencia CF, both under new coaches, had yet to start their domestic leagues and were firmly in experimental mode.
The same cannot be said this time. European champions Liverpool arrive on the back of a draw and a win in the 2005/06 English Premiership as well as six matches in a successful Champions League qualifying campaign.
Meanwhile, CSKA, the first Russian club to lift a European trophy, are knee-deep in their 2005 season. Valeri Gazzaev's men are second in the Premier-Liga after 21 games, trailing FC Lokomotiv Moskva by seven points. On Sunday they drew 1-1 at home against FC Zenit St. Petersburg, who sit level with them on 37 points, with Sergei Ignashevich scoring a penalty.
The CSKA captain underlined his team's determined mood here, saying: "We know their players are very strong because they won the Champions League. But we are not thinking about individuals. We will only worry about ourselves and not them."
Liverpool most recently recorded a 1-0 victory against Sunderland AFC last Saturday. Much will be expected of Djibril Cissé, linked with a move back to France, but manager Rafael Benítez was clear about his forward's future. "It is simple," he said. "I want to see him scoring goals tomorrow." Benítez also remained silent about Michael Owen's possible return, claiming: "Maybe [Real Madrid CF coach Vanderlei] Luxemburgo knows better than me."
On the matter in hand, he added: "This is the opportunity to win another trophy. When you play against good teams you have to do your best. I am not thinking about the past and that we won the Champions League." Whether inspirational captain Steven Gerrard, doubtful with a calf injury, plays on Friday will be left to the last moment while Djimi Traoré and Peter Crouch are injured.
CSKA have a host of problems of their own, not least the recent serious knee injury sustained by Croatia striker Ivica Olić. The top scorer in Russia with ten goals could be replaced by 20-year-old Sergei Samodin.
Gazzaev said: "The team should be prepared for such situations as things can happen to players at any time. We will do our best to win." There is at least better news regarding Brazilian forward Vágner Love, with Gazzaev reporting "no problems" over his leg injury.
The coach believed his side needed no incentive. "I think that those who say this match is just a show, a performance, should look at the history of Soviet and Russian football. They will see that our club will be the first [from Russia] to play in such a prestigious game."
The Army Men can take heart from the fact that since the Super Cup moved to the principality in 1998, the UEFA Cup holders have won five of seven contests. However, Liverpool will also know they can make it a hat-trick of titles after successes in 1977 and 2001. Plenty to play for then.