No more bickering as Supercoppa awaits

Posted by Ben Gladwell

Juventus Supercoppa trophy celeb GettyImagesJuventus beat Napoli in last year's curtain-raiser in Beijing but didn't fancy nother trip to China this time around.

The Italian Supercoppa is traditionally a competitive curtain-raiser to the Italian season, although the actual scheduling of the event this year roused more resentment between its two protagonists than can be expected at the Stadio Olimpico this Sunday.

When Juventus and Lazio take to the field in Rome, most of the battle will have already been won and lost after months of off-field debating. The Italian Football League, Lega Calcio, stipulated an agreement with China in 2010 that formalised plans for three of the subsequent four editions of the Supercoppa to be staged in Beijing.

With the past two Supercoppas being played in the Bird's Nest stadium, that left only one more lucrative yet simultaneously disruptive staging of the event in the Far East by 2014. Lazio, in a way admitting the reality that they do not have such a big chance of qualifying for the event, disputed between the Serie A and Coppa Italia holders from the previous season, planted their flag in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Juve, the back-to-back Scudetto winners and 2013-14 Serie A title favourites, did all they could to prevent a tiring trip to the other side of the world, especially considering they would just have returned from another such trip to the United States. Oh, and that trip stateside earned the Bianconeri a substantial sum of money.

The Lega Calcio was left with an unpopular choice to make: upset the Chinese, upset Lazio or upset Juve. It chose the former two. By means of a compromise, Rome's Stadio Olimpico was chosen for the event, yet the Lega Calcio went even further by guaranteeing Lazio a larger slice of the overall revenue to offset their disappointment at missing out on the riches a trip to China would have offered.

Juventus v LAzio battle
GettyImagesLazio and Juventus do battle on Sunday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

Juve, understandably, protested. How can it be fair that their decision to earn more money on a tour of their own and, thus, refuse to travel for a more official engagement could see them earn a smaller slice of the cake (roughly €1.8 million)? An official complaint was lodged, but a resolution will not be discussed until after the game has been played.

Not only the location caused contention either; so too did the date. Finally, the Lega Calcio intervened on both accounts and chose Rome this Sunday. Now let the game begin.

"I think it's right and sensible to play not only the final of the Coppa Italia but also the Supercoppa in Rome," said the president of Juve's owners Fiat, John Elkann, who still could not pass up on taking a dig at Sunday's opponents. "Some people just love to talk. We don't. We like doing other things."

With so much bad blood having passed between the two sides already, Sunday's game provides a chance for the teams to settle their differences in battle. And who better to typify that gladiatorial image than Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini.

"We're desperate to win," he said. "Believe me, we'll be ready. We want to make a flying start for a fantastic
season. Finally, on Sunday, it's time for all the talking to be done out there on the pitch."

Sunday's game also provides Juve with the first opportunity to parade their big summer signings in a competitive atmosphere. Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Angelo Ogbonna have all joined the Old Lady, who are looking to narrow the gap between themselves and the European aristocracy this year.

Carlos Tevez Juventus action
GettyImagesCarlos Tevez arrived at Juventus from Manchester City this summer.

"Let's not forget that last year we beat Chelsea, who were the Champions League holders, dominating them with great authority in the home game, but certainly when you face the likes of Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid, you've got to be in top form physically," Chiellini added.

"We know that, with hard work, we can aim for certain results, which are to confirm ourselves in Italy and improve in Europe. They are our objectives so beating any side can only do us good."

Victory one is penciled in for Sunday as Juve look to underline their two-year dominance of Italian football.
For Lazio, proving the opposite would not just do them good but would be a positive signal to the whole of Italian football, a bit like the one Borussia Dortmund's win over Bayern Munich in the German Supercup provided to the rest of the Bundesliga.

"We've got to win this game," midfielder Ederson said to Lazio Style Radio. "We know that Juve are the team to beat, but you never know what will happen in a single match. Our only objective is to win it."

The last time the Biancoceleste lifted the first trophy of the season was in 2000, two years after they beat the Juve 2-1 in Turin. Marcelo Salas was on the winning side that time and he recalled the emotions of that game in an interview with the Messaggero.

"I'd only just arrived and it was my first trophy so it had a special taste to it," he said. "The people in Rome treat you like a king. The affection and the warmth of the fans is extraordinary, beautiful and moving.

"For Lazio, this Supercoppa is going to be like a derby, even if it won't be like the Coppa Italia. I remember games against Juve were always lively, controversial and therefore fantastic to win. We were the underdogs in 1998 too, but
Lazio will make the most of their home advantage and win the Supercoppa again."

So much for the words and wrangles off the field, Lazio and Juventus will now do battle on it for the first prize of the 2013-14 Italian season.

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