UEFA: Barça and Porto get ready for Super Cup battle
The UEFA Super Cup will be held on Friday night with 2010-11 UEFA Champions League winners FC Barcelona ready to take on the 2010-11 UEFA Europa League holders FC Porto in a massive Iberian derby. These two clubs have been the dominant forces in their respective countries in recent years and both teams are hoping to add yet another trophy to their already bulging trophy cabinets this weekend.
With the most recent Super Cup winners Atlético Madrid ready to relinquish the trophy, which they won in glorious fashion against Internazionale last year, their compatriots FC Barcelona are the favourites to maintain a proud Spanish record in this competition. Since the Super Cup became a one-off fixture in 1998, Spanish clubs have participated in all but five of the thirteen finals and have won five times in the last nine years. FC Porto, however, should not be underestimated as they have started their domestic season in fine form whilst their opponents have yet to kick a ball in La Liga which still remains postponed due to the ongoing dispute between the Association of Spanish Footballers and the Spanish Football League over unpaid player salaries.
FC Barcelona won their fourth UEFA Champions League final last season having topped Group D in the league stage – finishing ahead of FC København, Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos – going on to eliminate Arsenal FC, Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid in the knockout rounds before disposing of Manchester United with a sublime performance in the final at Wembley Stadium which they won 3-1. This allowed Pep Guardiola’s men to qualify for their eighth Super Cup final in the process. The Blaugrana will, therefore, overtake AC Milan with the most appearances in this competition since its inception in 1972 although the Italians will still be record title holders with five wins even if Barcelona go on to win this weekend.
FC Porto qualified for this Friday’s showpiece match by claiming their second UEFA Europa League (formerly UEFA Cup) title in 2010-11. FC Porto are a team more accustomed to playing regularly in the UEFA Champions League but had to be content with the second-tier tournament following a third place finish in the 2009-10 Portuguese League campaign. The Dragões topped Group L in the league stage – ahead of Beşiktaş, Rapid Wien and CSKA Sofia – before overcoming Sevilla FC, both Moscow clubs CSKA and Spartak and Villarreal CF en route to defeating compatriots Braga who dropped down into the Europa League having finished third in their Champions League group. Radamel Falcao’s goal on the stroke of half-time separated the two finalists in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and gave Porto coach André Villas-Boas a fantastic send-off as this victory sealed the treble following FC Porto’s domestic league and cup success.
FC Barcelona were previously victorious in this competition in the two-legged era with wins over German clubs Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund in 1992 and 1997 respectively whilst their most recent victory came in the famous 2009 success against ambitious Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk, the 1-0 win in extra-time helping Barcelona on their way to a famous Sextuple triumph later that year. However they have also lost on four occasions so it is fair to say that the Catalans have had mixed fortunes in this competition. FC Porto will take part in their fourth UEFA Super Cup final and have also experienced the good and the bad in this competition. Following their triumphant appearance in 1987, in which they defeated Ajax Amsterdam 2-0 on aggregate, they lost back-to-back finals in 2003 and 2004 in which they suffered one goal deficits to AC Milan (1-0) and Valencia CF (2-1) respectively. If FC Porto are to break their duck in Monaco’s Stade Louis II then this will arguably be their last real chance to do so as next season’s UEFA Super Cup final will be the last time the fixture will be played there before being moved all around Europe starting with Prague in 2013.
One area where FC Porto will have an advantage over FC Barcelona before Friday’s contest will be in the number of competitive fixtures they have played so far. The Portuguese champions were successful in their domestic super cup (defeating Vitória Guimarães) and have chalked up two wins out of two in the Super Liga whilst Spanish and European champions FC Barcelona have played just two domestic super cup matches against Real Madrid so far with last weekend’s opening La Liga fixture against Malaga CF called off, along with all of the other Matchday 1 league fixtures.