Trophy twist to the 'Derby d'Italia'
Friday, 19 August 2005
The first silverware of the year is at stake in Italy when league champions Juventus FC take on cup winners FC Internazionale Milano for the Super Cup on Saturday.
The 'Derby d'Italia' is one of the country's most traditional fixtures, and promises to be just as intriguing this time around. Juventus will start as favourites, having taken the title for the 28th time in June, their third in four seasons, while Inter last won the Scudetto in 1988/89.
The Nerazzurri began last term slowly under Roberto Mancini but went on to finish third and lift the Coppa Italia, their first piece of silverware since the 1998 UEFA Cup. It was a big morale-boost and Inter have maintained momentum with a 2-0 victory at FC Shakhtar Donetsk in their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first-leg tie.
Mancini, whose team welcome Shakhtar for the return on Wednesday, said: "We want to improve on the results achieved last season," he said. "It's an important week for us because we have the chance to put another trophy in our cabinet and have a crucial Champions League game four days later.
"I'm very satisfied with the way my players are working," the 40-year-old added. "I'm also pleased with the new signings. They are adapting very quickly to the team." Walter Samuel and Luís Figo should make their competitive debuts following moves from Real Madrid CF, while Adriano and Obafemi Martins should start in attack.
Juventus coach Fabio Capello's preparations for the match at the Stadio Delle Alpi have been less straightforward. Goalkeeper Christian Abbiati could play after joining on loan from AC Milan to replace the injured Gianluigi Buffon.
However, Mauro Camoranesi is a doubt and Pavel Nedved and Lilian Thuram are out with the latter sustaining a thigh problem on his comeback appearance for France on Wednesday. "We can only hope this unlucky period with injuries will end soon," said Capello. "The Inter game is very difficult. They have enormous potential with a very big, top-quality squad."
There is better news regarding Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He appears to have recovered from a knock collected in the friendly against AC Milan last week and should feature. Adrian Mutu may also get a chance and will be confident after two midweek goals for Romania.
The Super Cup has been contested since 1988 with Juventus winning four times (1995, 1997, 2002 and 2003) and Inter once in 1989. Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón wants to bring the trophy back to the Giuseppe Meazza.
"It's very important for us to start where we left off last season," Verón said. "We lifted the Coppa Italia two months ago and now want the Super Cup. We are working in a very good environment this season. We are happy to play together and this can be the secret of our success."
Fabio Cannavaro, though, is eager to beat his old club. "Things are finally starting to get serious," said the Juventus defender. "Inter are confirming their progress. However, I think we are still favourites as our team is almost unchanged from last season." After a long summer, it is time to raise the curtain on Italian football.