On Wednesday night the Blues are in Belfast looking to win the UEFA Super Cup for the second time in our history and join the class of 1998. We caught up with a few of those who helped Chelsea to lift the over two decades ago after a memorable win over Real Madrid…

Games between the Blues and the most successful side in the history of the European Cup have been rare; last season’s Champions League semi-final was the first time we had met them in that particular competition, and only the third time we have been drawn against them in any UEFA tournament.

The last competitive meeting between the sides prior to that tie took place 23 years ago, when we contested the UEFA Super Cup.

Only 9,762 fans were inside the Stade Louis II stadium in Monaco to see whether the Champions League winners from the Bernabeu or the Cup Winners’ Cup holders from Stamford Bridge would take home European football’s equivalent of the Community Shield.

‘It was quite a weird atmosphere,’ was how our former left-back Graeme Le Saux remembered the trip to Monaco. ‘Obviously there were fans from both teams, but it felt a bit strange. It’s a very small stadium and there’s no build-up to the game, it’s not like you’ve got momentum in a competition and then this is the final, it’s just suddenly there. And we were certainly the underdogs.’

It was a tantalising prospect for Blues players and fans alike, as we were set to come up against the likes of Raul, Clarence Seedorf and Roberto Carlos, as we sought to win a third trophy in the six months since Gianluca Vialli had taken the reins in west London. While we had plenty of quality of our own, clearly we would need something extra to get past Real…

‘After the game, Ken Bates told me that their president had asked him: “Who is your No.11?” and he said: “It's our captain, Dennis Wise.” And the president replied: “He kept upsetting our players, he kept kicking them!”,’ joked Wise in a Chelsea TV interview a few years back.

The Blues skipper was stationed on the right flank to deal with the threat of Roberto Carlos, who regularly wreaked havoc in tandem with fellow Brazilian Savio. Robert Jarni was brought on with a quarter of an hour remaining, prompting Wise to shout to the bench: ‘Oi, I've had two whippets all night and now I've got three. What do I do?!’

Although we obviously didn’t know it at the time, an intriguing club connection later emerged, as Guus Hiddink, twice Chelsea’s interim manager in the past 12 years, had become Real’s new boss following a successful World Cup campaign in charge of the Netherlands.

It was also an opportunity for our new right-back Albert Ferrer to reacquaint himself with an old rival, as he had spent the early years of his career trying to get the better of Real while at Barcelona.

‘My first thought about this game was that it was a little bit strange because I’d been playing for Barcelona for eight years and it was strange being up against Real Madrid, but not wearing the colours of Barcelona,’ said the man nicknamed Chapi.

‘The big difference was that when you were at Barcelona, you were the favourites to win every single time, but when we approached that game at Chelsea we were not the favourites.’

In truth, the sub-plots proved to be far more intriguing than what occurred on the pitch, as an uneven surface was hardly conducive to flowing football and the action spluttered along rather than ebbing and flowing as one would have hoped.

Real, though, undoubtedly had the better of the first half. Raul blasted over early on and there was a huge let-off when Fernando Hierro struck the woodwork from a free-kick. Casiraghi went closest for Chelsea when he attempted to meet a low cross, but the sides went in goalless at the break and a big part of that was the performance of Chelsea’s centre-back pairing, which surprisingly included youngster Michael Duberry instead of new signing Marcel Desailly, who instead lined up in midfield.

‘I thought I'd miss this game,’ said Doobs. ‘We'd signed Marcel in the summer and when we were training in Monaco, Luca pulled me to one side. I thought it was the moment he was going to tell me I'm not playing, but he said, “For what you did for me last season, I'm going to reward you – you're playing tonight, and Marcel's in midfield.”’

Alongside him, Frank Leboeuf also excelled. This, remember, was a man who marshalled Chelsea defences in five cup finals without conceding.

The Frenchman was purposeful both in and out of possession – and later singled out by his manager as the key man on the night – and he agonisingly hit the woodwork with a wonderful curling strike. Le Saux and Poyet, who had come off the bench, also failed to make the most of decent openings.

The Uruguayan was not to be denied for long, however, as he scored the winning goal with less than 10 minutes remaining. Gianfranco Zola, of course, was heavily involved, as he drew the Real defence wide and then found Poyet inside the box to fire home past Bodo Illgner.

‘I saw I was about to be taken off and said to myself that I had to do something – and I set up the winner,’ said Zola, whose strike in the Cup Winners’ Cup final the previous May had booked our place in Monaco. ‘It was a good goal from Gustavo and we deserved to win the game. We played very well against the Champions League winners.’

For Poyet, who had missed much of the previous campaign through injury, the goal was one of his favourites from his time at Chelsea.

‘The only final I scored in in my life was against Real Madrid, in the Super Cup, so I cannot forget that moment, scoring in a final and being able to win,’ he told us in an interview in 2019, when asked to pick out his most memorable games as a Blue.

Chelsea held on to become only the fifth English side to lift the trophy. Victory over such a prestigious side proved to be a thrill for players both young and old.

‘After the game, me and Jody [Morris] went to the Real Madrid changing room and asked the kitman if he could get two shirts for us in exchange for ours,’ Duberry added. ‘Ten minutes later, the Duberry and Morris shirts come back out! So we asked Marcel to get the shirts for us, and I think we ended up with just replica Real Madrid shirts, I don't even think there were any names on them!’

Le Saux had a bit more joy, although he’s not sure the legend he swapped shirts with places as much importance on his Le Saux 14 jersey…

‘I swapped shirts with Raul after the game and I’m a proud owner of a Raul shirt,’ he said. ‘And he’s extremely proud that he’s got a Le Saux shirt, I think he washes his car with it! I saw Luis Figo a few years after the game and I played against him a couple of times at international level and I said to him “I’ve still got your shirt at home” and the look he gave me suggested he hasn’t still got mine…’Wise, typically sums it up best when he describes our Super Cup triumph as ‘fun – you know, it was fun because Real Madrid were expected to win. They thought they were going to pass it about and do their little thing and walk away with the trophy. Obviously we weren’t prepared to let them to do that.’

It remains the only time we have lifted the trophy, with each of our subsequent three Super Cup matches ending in defeat – the last two on penalties. Here’s hoping a new set of happy memories are made when we face another Spanish side, Villarreal, in Belfast on Wednesday.