Does the pre-season Italian Super Cup (or its European equivalent) have some impact on the rest of the campaign? The losers often will run with the line that ‘it’s a glorified friendly,’ whilst the victors normally bask in the fact that it is ‘the first trophy of the season.’ This weekend Juventus and Lazio will battle it out in Rome for the honour of the day, but will it affect them going forward?
If you look back at the Super Cup history, there has been a pattern. Since 2005 it featured Inter for seven straight years and in that time, they won four and lost three in one of the most successful periods in their history. Defeat at the hands of Lazio in Beijing in 2009 did not put a blot on the season, just as it cannot be argued that the 3-1 win against Roma the year after in San Siro catapulted them towards the Treble.
Juventus emerged on to the scene from their slumber in 2012 when they celebrated their Scudetto win with a trip of their own to China. Their Serie A dominance since then has been has been absolute and they have featured in every Supercoppa since. Their five finals have produced mixed results. They beat Napoli 4-2 after extra time in their first outing and then crushed Lazio 4-0 the year after. Since then, Juve lost on penalties twice to Napoli and Milan, but in the middle of that came another victory against the Romans.
Anyone suggesting this trophy meant little to Juve need only look at the furious reaction Max Allegri had during Milan’s ceremony, caught on camera ranting to directors Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici about his players. After a campaign that ended with another Champions League Final defeat, the Bianconeri most certainly care about starting this season with silverware.
It means a great deal to Lazio too, as Simone Inzaghi’s success was a total surprise in 2016-17, but now fans and media alike expect more consistency. That won’t be easy, considering the number of star names who have already left or are standing with one foot out the door.
The Aquile have not enjoyed their recent Super Cup outings, as mentioned 4-0 and then 2-0 in Shanghai in 2015. In the first, Paul Pogba made his mark along with Giorgio Chiellini, Stephan Lichtsteiner and debutant signing Carlos Tevez. Lazio did only marginally better next time out, as Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic topped off another dominant display, so will certainly be hoping that they can fare better at the Stadio Olimpico.
Whatever the result on Sunday, the fact that Juventus have been serial title winners offers up another example of why these pre-season games usually do not make a difference. Lazio often have a credible Coppa Italia run and few would bet against them doing the same this term.
There are perhaps some subtle differences this time, as whilst in past years The Old Lady have been dominant, the new season throws up a few twists. Milan have strengthened, Inter look solid and Napoli and Roma will again challenge.
Juventus have realised, as Gigi Buffon said, that this season will be harder than it has been for some time. Could a victory for Lazio signal a change? Back in 2011 when Inter lost 2-1 to Milan, few would have thought that that would be the last time they would feature for the next six years.
If Lazio can win at the Stadio Olimpico, questions may be asked if this signals the beginning of the end of Juve’s calcio domination.