Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing
1900 GMT – August 6, 2011
The first derby of the season kicks off in the lovely and picturesque Bird’s Nest in China. This is the second time the Coppa Italia is being held in China, the earlier instance being in the year 2009, when Lazio won over Internazionale by a 2-1 margin. Both Milan and Inter players had arrived in China much before time to acclimatize to the heat in the Asian country. The fan following of both the sides is tremendous, if one goes by the sheer number; although rumors has it that neither of Curva Nord or Curva Sud will be there to witness it. Milan will be going into this match on the back of two consecutive losses; one to Bayern Munich and the other to Internacional.
Internazionale, on the other hand, has been going through their own renaissance. Leonardo left and was replaced by Gasperini. Their pre-season isn’t going so smoothly either. After drawing nil-nil against Galatasaray, they lost 3-0 to Manchester City. Injuries have hampered Inter badly this off-season. So much so that Javier Zanetti was forced to cut short his break to join the team in China.
Team news and tactical brief
Milan has been surprisingly quiet in this transfer window with few players coming in or going out. As was seen in the Audi Cup matches, the Milan players lacked fitness and were not at all sharp upfront. A notable culprit would be Cassano, but it would be too much to blame the fault of the entire team on one individual. One thing that was clearly seen in both of these matches was that something was missing in the Milan midfield. This is not the same midfield anymore. The passes are not so accurate; the players are not so fit either. But this is perhaps being too critical of the players now. After all, this was a well deserved break after a Scudetto winning season. However, Allegri has a lot of pressure now compared to last season. And it starts right now. This is the first step in this new season and both, the manager and the players, have to see that the first step is taken in the right direction.
Milan would go into this match with a 4-3-1-2 formation, which has Van Bommel in the “Makelele position”. Since Brazil went out of Copa America pretty early, all of their players have returned to the Milan set up and are getting in shape for the upcoming season. Thiago Silva is likely to partner the ever-lasting Nesta at the back, with Zambrotta and the most improved player of last season – Abate playing as the full-backs. Gattuso and Seedorf would form the rest of the midfield, although several others can also be given a run in the second half. Among the forward three, Pato and Ibrahimovic pick themselves. But the third position is a bit tricky, as there are as many as three players for it – Robinho, Boateng and Cassano. It is likely to be Boateng in the second half with Robinho playing the first. Taiwo could have been tried out in this match, but he is suspended.
Possible Starting line-up: Abbiati (GK), Abate, Nesta, Silva, Zambrotta, Gattuso, Van Bommel, Seedorf, Pato, Ibrahimovic, Robinho
Internazionale have also been having a disappointing summer so far, but with the arrival of Ricky Alvarez, they are now looking upbeat and confident. Gasperini as a coach is a class act no doubt, having led his previous club Genoa back to Serie A in his very first season in charge. He has even earned the respect of the then-coach, Jose Mourinho. “Gasperini is one who made me re-think my tactics” – this goes a long way in saying the quality that he carries. Will the managerial merry-go-round continue at Inter or would they finally give Gasperini a long run remains to be seen, but for him, the first real test would be tomorrow.
Gasperini favors the 3-4-3 formation, so it is no secret that he would deploy the same tomorrow. The back three would consist of Chivu, Samuel and Ranocchia. The midfield would be containing the likes of Zanetti, Sneijder, Motta and new boy, Alvarez. Eto’o, Pazzini and Pandev would form the top three. Sneijder might be forced to play in a more deeper position than usual, but the Dutch star is not complaining. This would be a totally new season for him, and it could go either way – he could end up with the Scudetto in his hands or even he could end up on the bench within the first two months.
Possible Starting line-up: Cesar (GK), Chivu, Samuel, Ranocchia, Zanetti, Sneijder, Motta, Alvarez, Eto’o, Pazzini, Pandev
Fact#1: The last time Milan lost away from San Siro, they went on to lift the Champions League defeating Juventus.
Fact#2: Inter and Milan each share five trophies.
Fact#3: Strangely enough, this is the first time the two sides of Milan are meeting in the Italian Super Cup final.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Thiago Silva (Milan)
The Brazilian proved that he is back at his best with a sublime performance in the last season. With a disappointing Copa America, Silva would look to quickly put that disappointment behind him as he focuses on stopping the likes of Eto’o and Pazzini.
Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale)
When Gasperini came in, everyone predicted that Sneijder would leave as he was did not fit into Gasperini’s 3-4-3 system. But the Dutch maestro has remained put at Inter so far and would look to add the SuperCoppa Italiana to his collection.
AC Milan 2-0 Internazionale
This would be a battle against Inter’s forward line and Milan’s midfield. While the experience lies strongly with Milan, age is against them. Ibrahimovic and Pato would like to end this contest as soon as possible, but if remains to be seen if they will be well-supplied to do so.