Roberto Di Matteo is hoping he can achieve as a manager what he did as a player in 1998, and win the Uefa Super Cup for Chelsea.
The former midfielder was in the side 14 years ago when Gustavo Poyet struck the only goal against Real Madrid in the Stade Louis II, and tomorrow we meet their city neighbours Atletico thanks to our Champions League victory in Munich in May.
‘The consequence of that night is why we’re here and we shouldn’t forget how hard it was to be here,’ the Italian said. ‘It was a very difficult road and took a lot of suffering to be able to win it and be able to play this game and be involved in the European Super Cup. I feel very strongly about it and hopefully we can win the game tomorrow.’
Facing us will be a team Di Matteo holds in the highest regard, which lifted the Europa League last season and has begun its 2012/13 campaign impressively, most recently winning 4-0 against Athletic Bilbao thanks to a Falcao hat-trick and a strike from former Chelsea midfielder Tiago.
‘I have seen Falcao a lot, he is a superb player from watching the last couple of seasons. He is one of the best strikers in the world and I think he will be a big threat for us tomorrow night,’ Di Matteo said.
‘Atletico Madrid is a very good team – they won the Europa League last season and started off well again. I watched their games and they have a lot of quality with a good coach in Diego Simeone.’
Despite the Spaniards’ class, we have plenty of our own, and Di Matteo was asked about Fernando Torres, an Atletico fan, and his early season form which has already yielded three goals. It was suggested that Torres has found form thanks to the departure of Didier Drogba, but the manager disagrees.
‘I believe competition is very important for professional sportsmen. I don’t think the way Fernando has started is because Drogba is not here,’ Di Matteo said. ‘I thought he had a very good end to the last season for us. He made a lot of assists and works extremely hard, and scored some important goals. He started this season well and has competition also, we have Daniel Sturridge as well and I believe competition is very important for us.’
Time was also given to the topic of Eden Hazard, who has set English football ablaze with his dribbling and eye for a pass.
‘He’s brought a lot of creativity and different options to us but he is not the only one. He has linked up with Juan Mata and the other midfield players and Fernando, we have seen they have a very good understanding,’ Di Matteo assessed. ‘His impact is very positive at the beginning of the season but also thanks to the rest of the team that he has been able to settle smoothly.
‘I am pleased with the start we had and also with the way we have been playing at the beginning of the season. We can still improve a lot and we have some players we need to integrate who need to adapt a little bit to our team and shape.
‘It is always good to have a good start, it brings a lot of confidence to the players and the belief we can have a good season but we still have to work a lot to be able to be challenging for the top.’
Di Matteo’s team news explained that Yossi Benayoun, Florent Malouda and Marko Marin have not travelled. ‘Benayoun was ill for the last two days and Malouda was just a technical decision from my point of view. The rest are all here,’ he said. Marin is still recovering from a hamstring problem.
For now though the focus is not on Cobham or Stamford Bridge, it is all about a one-off fixture in Europe’s most exclusive venue. For Di Matteo, there is the hope of history repeating on Friday night.
‘It was 14 years ago, so a long time ago, the last time the club won this trophy and it would be nice for us to be able to continue this positive start to this season that we had,’ he said.
It would be the perfect way to commence our European campaign.