Chelsea v Atletico Madrid, Friday 31st August

Was there ever a time in its existence when the UEFA Super Cup was a much-loved competition? Probably not but please excuse the search for sentimental value of some kind. When it comes to this year’s edition on Friday, there will be at least a trace of it as this will be the last Super Cup to be hosted in Monaco at least for the time being. Like many of its equivalents in individual nations, the Super Cup will be a travelling spectacle from next year onwards. That will make it more worthwhile apparently. It’s all about spreading the cheer and all that.

Unsurprisingly the roadshow is another reminder that it really is all about the money. You look surprised? Any competition that’s been hosted by Monaco isn’t going to be about much else now is it? Despite being a game that is generally ignored, there is a little prestige to a game between the Champions League and Europa League winners. 

The Super Cup brings up interesting games at least when the fixture is first made. Unfortunately it has often been that the case that the winner of the Europa League has lost some of its main men to bigger clubs. Likewise, unfashionable winners of the Champions League have lost their stars to the bigger names of the European stage. This time around, the summer has been kind to the two teams involved and that alone makes this game a lot more appealing than usual.

Chelsea have undergone some significant changes from last season’s s but there has not been any loss of quality. Instead they’re offering something different, arguably something better to watch than before. Eden Hazard has earned plaudits with an impressive start to his time at Stamford Bridge and illustrates qualities that were not often mentioned compared to the strong spine ethos of yesteryears. Most of the aforementioned spine still remains but the loss of Didier Drogba coupled with the greater responsibility on the shoulders of Fernando Torres shows that Chelsea are moving to a more fluid and possessive attacking unit. A 100% start in the league will add further weight to their status as favourites for Friday’s game. 

Atletico will be no pushovers and they’ve retained the bulk of their squad from the previous campaign, the headline being their top talent Colombian frontman Radamel Falcao surprising some Atleti supporters by staying put. With Chelsea still seeming shaky in defence, a striker of Falcao’s quality could have a field day. He’s carried on from where he left off last season, netting a hattrick Monday night against a beleaguered Athletic Bilbao. With everybody’s favourite centre back John Terry missing the game through suspension, David Luiz and Gary Cahill will certainly have their hands full with the Colombian forward. It’s not all about Falcao but if Atleti are to win, you would expect him to play a vital role.

His supporting cast aren’t slouches of course with the likes of forward Adrian and centre back (and former Chelsea
transfer target) Diego Godin there to provide a decent backdrop. One man who could be a tad conflicted on this occasion is goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is on loan at Atletico for a second season from Chelsea. Of course, he’s done what any player would do in position so as not to undermine any confidence either club has in him. He’ll certainly be under a little more scrutiny than usual.

Looking at it all on face value, Friday night should be entertaining. Cue a reality check and both sides will cancel each other out with the game being decided by a solitary goal. Here’s some selected history to backup that thought: the first time the Super Cup was contested in Monaco, Chelsea beat Real Madrid 1-0.