Can Di Matteo's golden touch continue with the UEFA Super Cup?

Posted by Phil Lythell

On Friday night in the Stade Louis II, Chelsea face Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup for the right to be named... err... actually, I have no idea.



The competition is a quirky affair that pits the holders of the Champions League against the holders of the Europa League for no discernible reason. I am fairly sure that should the Spanish club triumph in Monaco, Chelsea will still be regarded as the champions of Europe otherwise what was the excitement in Munich on 19th May all about? I am sure that once upon a time the contest had a specific purpose but these days it serves mainly as a stylish backdrop to the glitzy UEFA Champions League group stage draw aptly set in the money-drenched French Riviera.

• Courtois excited by 'special' clash

Nevertheless, this 'final' delivers the prospect of attaining some silverware which is something that is not to be sniffed at as followers of Arsenal will be keen to attest. To qualify for this match, the clubs involved will have achieved something special in the previous few months and participation for most clubs comes along very rarely unless you happen to be Barcelona or AC Milan who have appeared eight times and seven times, respectively. There is definitely prestige attached to winning this fixture even if nobody is quite sure exactly what it is.

For some of those taking the field the match will have a special resonance beyond the trophy. Fernando Torres will play against his boyhood club that he represented with distinction for the very first time since his departure from the Spanish capital five years ago. His current form is reminiscent of that which saw teams across Europe scramble for his signature before Liverpool emerged victorious and while he has promised not to celebrate should he find the back of the net, there is every chance that he will do precisely that should his understanding with Eden Hazard continue to blossom.

Thibaut Courtois is in an even more peculiar position in that he will be playing for Atletico Madrid against the team who actually own him, but for whom he is yet to represent on the pitch. An interesting article in The Guardian newspaper revealed that while he does not really feel like a Chelsea player, he is desperate to return to the club in the future and will be keen to impress when he faces his principal employers. Judging by his exceptional season in La Liga and the UEFA Cup last season, he should have no problem catching the eye as well as any crosses.

It will also be a poignant occasion for Tiago, should he feature. One of Jose Mourinho's first signings for Chelsea, he won the Premier League title in his only season in England, with my personal highlight of his stay being his extraordinary equaliser at Old Trafford mere days after the Blues had been crowned champions for the first time in 50 years. I was there that evening and I can testify that the Stretford End was silenced after his stupendous 35-yard strike cancelled out Ruud Van Nistelrooy's opener, allowing the away supporters' revelry to increase in volume still further.

The main obstacle to victory is clear: Radamel Falcao. The Colombian hitman is a big game player as seen by his strikes in each of the past two Europa League finals. Apart from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, nobody in the big five European leagues has scored more often than Falcao in 2012 and he has started the new campaign in blistering style with a hat-trick last weekend against Athletic Bilbao. He will need to be marshalled extremely well by Gary Cahill and David Luiz if he is to be kept quiet while behind him Arda Turan is the supply chain that needs to be shut down. The Turkish trickster is a wily operator and enjoyed an excellent debut season in Spain last time around providing Falcao with the bullets to blow away the opposition.

But don't forget, Chelsea have won this trophy once before - when they beat Spanish opponents Real Madrid 1-0 in 1998 when Chelsea took part as winners of the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners Cup. Lucky mascot, Roberto Di Matteo was in the starting XI that day alongside Gus Poyet, who fired in the decider late on to give the Blues their third trophy in six months, the League Cup having also been bagged. The match was also memorable for a classy centre back from each side striking the post from long range; Frank Leboeuf thumping the upright for the Blues before Fernando Hierro did likewise for the reigning European Champions.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Atletico Madrid will be no pushovers but Di Matteo's golden touch when it comes to cup competitions, whether as a player or manager, gives Chelsea the edge. Here's hoping his run continues.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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