Two-and-a-half months after the Champions League final, Chelsea are on the trail of silverware again…

Chelsea and Villarreal will meet for the first time ever in UEFA’s traditional play-off between last season’s prize-winners. Super Cup games are like friendlies with benefits: it has always been a nice and early title to claim not least because it is a rare opportunity in any career. The prize used to be the smallest of UEFA’s trophy at 42½ centimetres tall, but since 2006 the new pot has been a more sizeable 58cm.

Metal of a different composition is a feature outside tonight’s host stadium: Windsor Park, Belfast. It is a statue of the great George Best, who is indirectly linked to both participants. The Northern Ireland legend always said he would have loved to play for Chelsea (and donned the famous royal blue in a testimonial) and was great friends with Peter Osgood and co.

Best was also dubbed ‘el Beatle’ after Manchester United’s European Cup win in 1968 and Villarreal fans’ nickname for their club – the Yellow Submarine – comes from a worldwide hit for the Beatles released two years earlier.

Tonight the Submarine is raising its periscope in this curtain-raiser to the European season for the first time, but their coach, Unai Emery, has history. The former Arsenal boss’s remarkable record in the Europa League – he won three in succession from 2013/14 to 15/16 – is tempered by defeats in both his previous Super Cup games (2014 and 2015).

Victory for Chelsea tonight would produce some neat symmetry in the trophy cabinet: two Cup Winners’ Cups, two Europa Leagues, two Champions Leagues and two Super Cups.

Chelsea are aiming to become the first English side to beat an overseas team in the Super Cup since 2005.

Chelsea team news

Having won Europe’s top prize in our last competitive outing, faith in the coach and the confidence of European champions should be pulsing through the Chelsea players’ veins.

Thomas Tuchel has had to juggle several groups with diverse outlooks in pre-season, and has said those with more game time in their legs are likely to be in the vanguard again this evening.

He has also warned that he does not see this game as the opportunity to share around the minutes so much as the first title to be won this season. Anyone selected has the chance to share the honours with Gustavo Poyet of being a Super Cup match-winner for the Blues.The Bavarian named a 24-strong squad for this fixture, including those involved in the Euros final: Ben Chilwell, Emerson, Reece James, Jorginho and Mason Mount.

Also included are returning loanees such as Trevoh Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who have acquitted themselves so well over an unbeaten pre-season programme.

With five substitutions permitted (six if extra time is played) both coaches have plenty of flexibility, and in that respect the Blues’ depth could prove significant.

Main pre-season results

Chelsea17 Jul Peterborough W 6-127 Jul Bournemouth W 2-11 Aug Arsenal W 2-14 Aug Tottenham D 2-2Villarreal16 Jul Valencia L 2-322 Jul Lyon D 2-229 Jul Levante D 0-031 Jul Marseille L1-24 Aug Leicester L 2-37 Aug Leeds D 2-2

Fresh opposition

As tricky as Chelsea’s pre-season has been, it has proved less problematic than Villarreal’s preparations. The Castellon potters from Estadio de la Ceramica have suffered cancellations, player illnesses and injuries to key players – notably midfield general Dani Parejo – and are winless in six friendlies.

The Europa League holders finished seventh in La Liga last season, some distance behind Sevilla, Real Madrid and champions Atletico – all of whom the Blues beat on the way to winning the Champions League for a second time.

With his squad ravaged, Unai Emery (Arsenal’s boss when we beat them 4-1 in the Europa League final) has had to deploy former Spurs full-back Juan Foyth as a defensive midfielder, though he was injured in training on Monday. Their Europa League penalty shoot-out hero Geronimo Rillo could also miss out, with Sergio Asenjo setting up between the sticks.

In recent line-ups Emery has fielded Paco Alcacer upfront in partnership with the prolific Gerard Moreno. However, he recently signed Senegal forward Boulaye Dia, who netted 14 goals in 36 games for Reims in France’s top flight. Involved for sure will be Spain prodigy and losing Olympic finalist Pau Torres.

The Submarine has had that sinking feeling a few times in the build-up to this showpiece, and the Blues will hope to torpedo their chances in Belfast.

How to follow this match

Coverage of the Super Cup will be broadcast live on BT Sport from 7.15pm in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see UEFA’s TV guideChelsea TV’s preview starts from 7pm on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.

Match regulations

Twelve substitutes can be named this evening and up to five used – six if we enter extra time. Should the scores be level at the end of normal time, two 15-minute periods of additional play and, if necessary, penalty kicks will determine the winners.

Chelsea are the only club ever to have lost a Super Cup game on penalties – and have suffered that fate on the last two occasions. Villarreal won the Europa League after a 22-take shoot-out against Man United when goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli saved David De Gea’s effort having previously succeeded from the spot himself.

Super Cup history

As winners of UEFA’s senior trophy Chelsea are the nominal ‘home’ team for this 46th annual play-off between the recently crowned champions of the Champions League and Europa League.

This tie was a double-header from its start in 1973 until 1997, after which it went solo and took up annual residence at Monaco’s Stade Louis II towards the end of August. Cup Winners’ Cup holders Chelsea won the first there in 1998, overcoming Real Madrid 1-0 thanks to a Gus Poyet goal.

It is doubtful we will hear a repeat of the pre-match ritual that day, when players marched out to the ‘Throne Room’ music from Star Wars as opposed to the UEFA anthem.

Since 1999 the UEFA Cup winners, then Europa League winners, have faced off against the senior champions. Last season Bayern beat Sevilla, meaning eight of the past 10 Super Cup matches have been won by the Champions League victors. The exceptions were both achieved by Europa League winners Atletico, who beat city rivals Real in 2018 and Robbie Di Matteo’s Blues in 2012.

That was the second of our four previous appearances – three of them defeats – and meant we had played the first and last Super Cup game at the Stade Louis II. Since 2013 it has been a moveable feast, and Windsor Park is the ninth different host ground since then.

Why ‘the Yellow Submarine’?

Villarreal have sported yellow jerseys since their club president was unable to track down sufficient supply of their usual white in 1947. Two decades later, and two years after the Beatles released the Ringo-sung, erm, masterpiece, someone in the crowd started playing the track and fans joined in, amending the lyric to: ‘Amarillo es el Villarreal/Amarillo es/Amarillo es’ (‘Villarreal are yellow, they are yellow, they are yellow’). Aston Villa supporters adapted the same song to ‘Have you won the European Cup’ but Chelsea fans tend not to hear that any more.

Windsor Park rendezvous

Northern Ireland’s national stadium has an 18,600 capacity but the crowd will be restricted to 13,000, of whom 2,000 are officially Blues and 1,500 Submariners. It will be the largest sporting attendance in Northern Ireland since March 2020.

This will be Chelsea’s competitive debut at Windsor Park, though we played Linfield there in a May 1935 testimonial for Billy Houston. The Pensioners won the game 3-2 in front of a 17,671 crowd, with Northern Ireland international Joe Bambrick scoring on his onetime home patch.

The current playing surface, renovated to UEFA standards in May, looked pristine when Linfield played a Champions League qualifier there recently.

- By Rick Glanvill (club historian) and Paul Dutton (club statistician)