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Real Madrid vs Eintracht Frankfurt: What is the UEFA Super Cup? Date, format, winners...

Helsinki hosts the European curtain-raiser on Wednesday, as Real Madrid take on Eintracht Frankfurt with the chance to equal AC Milan and Barcelona’s Super Cup hauls.

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Lukas Schulze - UEFAGetty Images

Champions League holders Real Madrid face Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday 10 August, in the 47th edition of a fixture that has changed significantly since its inception in the early 1970s.

Who plays in the Super Cup?

When Ajax beat AC Milan to win the inaugural Super Cup in the 1973/74 season, it was a trophy contested by the holders of the European Cup - a tournament rebranded as the Champions League in 1992 - and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. However, when the Cup Winners’ Cup was scrapped in 1999, its Super Cup slot was transferred to the winners of the continent’s other major men’s club competition, the UEFA Cup, which has been known as the Europa League since 2009.

Chelsea won last year's Super Cup, beating Villarreal in Belfast.
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Chelsea won last year's Super Cup, beating Villarreal in Belfast.DPA vía Europa Press

Format switched from two legs to single game

The Super Cup’s format has also evolved over the last half-century. Until 1997, it was generally held over two legs, with each team playing one game at home. The exceptions to this are the 1984, 1986 and 1991 editions of the trophy. In ‘84, Juventus and Liverpool agreed to play a single leg in Turin as a measure against fixture congestion; in ‘86, Steaua Bucharest and Dynamo Kyiv opted to meet at Monaco’s Stade Louis II; and in ‘91, Manchester United and Red Star Belgrade played only at Old Trafford due to the political unrest in the former Yugoslavia.

After 25 years as a two-legged affair, the Super Cup was switched to a single-game format in 1998, with UEFA - European soccer’s governing body - installing Monaco as the regular neutral venue for the fixture. Having just won the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in 32 years, Madrid were involved in that maiden one-off clash, losing 1-0 to Cup Winners’ Cup holders Chelsea.

The shift to a single-game format also brought with it a change in the Super Cup’s scheduling. Having previously tended to be played at some point between November and March, as of 1998 it has been held in August, taking on the role of the European club season’s traditional curtain-raiser.

UEFA Super Cup: at-a-glance fact file

  • Contested by holders of Champions League and Europa League
  • First played in 1973/74 season
  • Switched from two legs to single game in 1998
  • Played in Monaco from 1998 and 2012
  • Now held in a new European city each year
  • Most wins: AC Milan, Barcelona (five)

Extra time, penalties grow in frequency

Until the two-legged format was abolished, the Super Cup had only required extra time once: Aston Villa’s 1982 victory over Barcelona. Unsurprisingly, the additional period has become a more common event in the single-leg Super Cup. Indeed, 10 out of 24 have been level after 90 minutes, including each of the last four editions of the fixture.

Never needed in the two-legged Super Cup, penalties have now been used to decide the winner in three single-game encounters - and Chelsea have been involved in every one. In 2013, the Blues lost to Bayern Munich in the first Super Cup to be settled from 12 yards, before again succumbing in 2019, this time against Liverpool. The West Londoners then broke their penalty hoodoo last year, beating Villarreal 6-5 from the spot in Belfast.

It should also be noted that one Super Cup was decided by the ‘golden goal’ - a short-lived, unsuccessful rule by which the first team to score in extra time won the game. In 2000, Jardel’s 102nd-minute strike earned UEFA Cup winners Galatasaray a sudden-death victory over European champions Madrid.

Real Madrid have won the UEFA Super Cup four times - one fewer than AC Milan and Barcelona, the trophy's most successful clubs.
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Real Madrid have won the UEFA Super Cup four times - one fewer than AC Milan and Barcelona, the trophy's most successful clubs.Stu ForsterDIARIO AS

From fixed venue to European tour

A further major change that the Super Cup has undergone is its venue. After moving to a neutral stadium following the abolition of the trophy’s home-and-away format, the Super Cup settled down for a 15-year stint at the 16,000-capacity Stade Louis II, before UEFA opted to take the event to a new location every year. The game moved to Prague in 2013, and has since also been held in Cardiff, Tblisi, Trondheim, Skopje, Tallinn, Istanbul, Budapest and Belfast. On Tuesday, Helsinki will become the 13th city to host a single-game Super Cup.

Real Madrid can equal Milan, Barcelona haul

When Madrid and Frankfurt face off in the Finnish capital, the Spaniards will have the opportunity to become the Super Cup’s joint-most successful club. Appearing in the fixture for the eighth time in their history - Frankfurt, meanwhile, will be making their debut - Los Blancos have lifted the trophy on four occasions, one fewer than AC Milan and Barcelona. Liverpool and Atlético Madrid complete the top five of the most frequent Super Cup winners, with four and three, respectively.

Every UEFA Super Cup played so far:

1973AjaxAC Milan6-1 (over two legs)
1975Dynamo KyivBayern Munich3-0 (over two legs)
1976AnderlechtBayern Munich5-3 (over two legs)
1977LiverpoolHamburg7-1 (over two legs)
1978AnderlechtLiverpool4-3 (over two legs)
1979Nottingham ForestBarcelona2-1 (over two legs)
1980ValenciaNottingham Forest2-2* (over two legs)
1982Aston VillaBarcelona3-1 a.e.t. (over two legs)
1983AberdeenHamburg2-0 (over two legs)
1986Steaua BucharestDynamo Kyiv1-0
1987PortoAjax2-0 (over two legs)
1988MechelenPSV Eindhoven3-1 (over two legs)
1989AC MilanBarcelona2-1 (over two legs)
1990AC MilanSampdoria3-1 (over two legs)
1991Manchester UnitedRed Star Belgrade1-0
1992BarcelonaWerder Bremen3-2 (over two legs)
1993ParmaAC Milan2-1 (over two legs)
1994AC MilanArsenal2-0 (over two legs)
1995AjaxReal Zaragoza5-1 (over two legs)
1996JuventusParis Saint-Germain9-2 (over two legs)
1997BarcelonaBorussia Dortmund3-1 (over two legs)
1998ChelseaReal Madrid1-0
1999LazioManchester United1-0
2000GalatasarayReal Madrid2-1 a.e.t. (golden goal)
2001LiverpoolBayern Munich3-2
2002Real MadridFeyenoord3-1
2003AC MilanPorto1-0
2005LiverpoolCSKA Moscow3-1 a.e.t.
2007AC MilanSevilla3-1
2008Zenit St PetersburgManchester United2-1
2009BarcelonaShakhtar Donetsk1-0 a.e.t.
2010Atlético MadridInter Milan2-0
2012Atlético MadridChelsea4-1
2013Bayern MunichChelsea2-2 a.e.t., 5-4 on pens
2014Real MadridSevilla2-0
2015BarcelonaSevilla5-4 a.e.t.
2016Real MadridSevilla3-2 a.e.t.
2017Real MadridManchester United2-1
2018Atlético MadridReal Madrid4-2 a.e.t.
2019LiverpoolChelsea2-2 a.e.t., 5-4 on pens
2020Bayern MunichSevilla2-1 a.e.t.
2021ChelseaVillarreal1-1 a.e.t., 6-5 on pens

* Valencia won on away goals

NB: Super Cup wasn’t held in 1974, 1981 and 1985.