The Italian Super Cup between AC Milan and Inter Milan should serve as the appetizer for the main course next month.
The city rivals face each other at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday with the first trophy of the Italian season at stake, but they will also likely have one eye on their Serie A clash at San Siro on Feb. 5.
Defending Serie A champion Milan is second in the league, nine points behind runaway leader Napoli, and just one ahead of Juventus and Inter.
“It’s another trophy that we can win,” Milan defender Sergiño Dest said about Wednesday’s match.
“They want it as bad as we want it. So we just have to make sure that we set the tone from the first minute and make sure that we show that we want it more than them.”
Milan has had a poor start since Serie A resumed this month following a 7 1/2-week break for the World Cup.
It beat Salernitana then squandered a two-goal lead to draw Roma 2-2 and was eliminated from the Italian Cup by 10-man Torino on Wednesday.
More worryingly for coach Stefano Pioli, the Rossoneri conceded two first-half goals at Lecce on Saturday before recovering again to rescue a point.
“(That) was the first time we got our approach wrong in a long time,” Pioli said after the Lecce draw. “We’ve never got our approach wrong, never. Not before the break, nor after it. Unfortunately, we got it wrong and that honestly surprised me.
“It’s clear that our performance levels need to improve and they need to do so quickly because we have another important objective on Wednesday. We need to be focused and well prepared and try to do better.”
The Super Cup is between the Serie A champion and the Italian Cup winner.
Milan has lifted the trophy seven times, one more than Inter, and beat the Nerazzurri in the 2011 edition. But Inter holds the Super Cup.
Inter has started the year much better than Milan, apart from drawing at Monza 2-2. It has won its other two league matches, including a confidence-boosting victory over Napoli. It also beat Parma to reach the Italian Cup quarterfinals.
World Cup winner Lautaro Martínez has scored in his past three matches for Inter to take his tally to nine in the league.
“The Super Cup is massively important,” Martinez said. “We’re a big club, and must have the habit of winning things, playing finals, and aiming to win trophies.
“We have the quality, and the history of the club forces you to win. We’ll prepare as best we can to bring back the Super Cup to Milan.”
Whatever happens, the trophy will indeed be coming back to Milan, but which part of the city remains to be seen.
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