At 7 pm on Wednesday at Belfast in Northern Ireland, the champions of Europe’s elite competition will lock horns with the winners of the continent’s second-tier competition as a curtain-raiser for the new season.
Both sides will be playing their first-ever games against each other. However, not all the Villarreal team is new to Chelsea as their Manager Unai Emery still have memories of his Arsenal side’s defeat to the Blues in the Europa League when the Blues were managed by Maurizio Sarri a couple of seasons ago. Emery’s Arsenal side crumbled under the weight of former Gunners forward Olivier Giroud, Pedro and Eden Hazard. All three have since left the Blues and Emery may be a happy man that his tormentors are gone.
Chelsea booked their place in the Super Cup final thanks to a stellar end of season performance that saw them dispatch record UEFA Champions League winners, Real Madrid and Premier League champions, Manchester City to win the senior of Europe’s inter-club competitions.
The Blues actually tamed three Spanish oppositions in Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, en route to the final against local rivals, Manchester City. So Tuchel’s men would be no strangers to Spanish football.
Interestingly, Villarreal also defeated an English opponent, Manchester United to lift their first-ever European trophy to set a date with the Blues. They also beat Arsenal in the semi-finals of the competition before seeing off Manchester United in the final.
Chelsea unlike their opposition will be playing their 5th Super Cup final, their first, in 1998 which they won thanks to a Gus Poyet owner goal, 10 minutes from time. The other three were in 2012, a 1 – 4 defeat to Atletico Madrid, 2013, a 5 – 4 penalty defeat to Bayern Munich after a 2 – 2 draw and the last was in 2019 against Liverpool which ended in a 5 – 4 penalty defeat also after a 2 – 2 draw.
On all four occasions the Blues played in the final, they played two times as Europa League winners and the other two as Cup Winners’ Cup and Champions League.
With their recent failures in the competition, Tuchel will hope to evoke the spirits of the 1998 final to aid his men at the National Sports Stadium in Windsor Park, Belfast. It may be one of the few things the Blues will need in order to be able to add this to their European silverware collection.
Tuchel’s men remain the only side to have lost the Super Cup finals on penalties and that also on two occasions and memories of their harrowing defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid, nine years ago could be a caution point for the Blues going into a one-off final with a Spanish side.
Villarreal will be without influential duo Samuel Chukwueze and Daniel Parejo who are nursing injuries. Meanwhile, Etienne Capoue, Francis Coquelin, Geronimo Rulli and Vicente Iborra are also doubtful for the Yellow Submarines.
The Blues on the other half have a full squad with the only headache for Thomas Tuchel being on who to opt for in his starting XI and who to be on the bench.
Whatever and however it ends tonight in Belfast, either side will be making a piece of history but who will that be?