Inter Milan v Lazio, Italian Super Cup, August 8, 2009
The 2009/2010 Italian season kicks off with the 22nd annual Italian Super Cup match between Inter Milan and Lazio. For the fourth time in the history of the season curtain-raiser the match is to be held abroad, in the famous â€œBirdâ€™s Nestâ€ Stadium in Beijing, China.
Inter arrived in Beijing last weekend to prepare themselves for the encounter and to hit the ground running this season. It has been a busy summer for the Nerazzurri, as president Massimo Moratti has opened up his wallet to provide Jose Mourinho with a spectacular squad that looks on paper like the best in Italy.
The loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is offset by the arrivals of Samuel Etoâ€™o and Diego Milito whilst fellow new signings Lucio and Thiago Motta add a great amount of steel to the spine of the team.
Mourinho is still looking to splash some cash with a playmaker type of central midfielder tipped to join (Deco or Wesley Sneijder perhaps?) while another striker, Twenteâ€™s Marko Arnautovic, is all but signed. The â€œSpecial Oneâ€ complained last season that his squad wasnâ€™t big enough to challenge on all fronts, it looks like the media savvy Portuguese coach wonâ€™t have the same excuse in the coming campaign.
Having now won four Italian titles in a row, both the Inter fans and president Moratti are hoping for some progress in the Champions League. It will be intriguing to see how Mourinho lines up his side this season, will he go with the favoured 4-3-3, to accommodate Etoâ€™o, Milito and rising star (Super) Mario Balotelli or a more conservative 4-4-2 that utilises many of the midfielders available (including Cambiasso, Stankovic, Zanetti and Muntari).
Coppa Italia winners Lazio have also made some significant signings this summer, strengthening their squad with experienced Argentine goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri and Real Zaragozaâ€™s Brazilian midfielder Matuzalen to add quality in the middle of the park.
Going forward Lazio have added some real attacking flair by snapping up Eliseu, a bargain from Malaga, as well as veteran striker Julio Cruz from opponents Inter. Mauro Zarate remains their great hope up front after an excellent first season in Serie A and his permanent signing may have been the most important business conducted by the club in recent months.
Question marks still remain over the future of Goran Pandev who has not been shy in voicing his desire to leave, but overall the Biancocelesti have a fairly good squad at Serie A level. Crucially, they have a fantastic new tactician in Davide Ballardini who was a success at Palermo and if he can get the big name players going, Lazio could be an outside tip for a Champions League spot.
101gg predicts: Inter Milan 3 â€“ Lazio 1 (11/1)
Full match odds here.