Lazio travelled to the Far East seven days in advance of a daunting clash with Juventus in China, but their thorough preparation proved to be in vain as the Old Lady ran out comfortable 2-0 victors.
The Aquile suffered a fifth straight defeat following a quartet of friendly match losses in the lead-up to a showpiece event which ended in all-too predictable fashion.
On a sub-standard pitch resembling an overused rugby field, accompanied by high winds swirling around the Shanghai Stadium, the Biancocelesti came off second-best to last season’s double winners.
Stefano Pioli’s men must now wipe that latest disappointment from their minds when turning attention to a hugely important Champions League play-off tie against Bayer Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the German Bundesliga in order to qualify.
Leverkusen Coach Roger Schmidt penned a three-year deal at the end of last season on the back of several impressive performances under his leadership, which showcased his side’s aerial ability and lightning pace on the counter-attack.
Defensive midfield partnership Lars Bender – who has just been handed the club captaincy after Simon Rolfes’ retirement – and Christoph Kramer provide a solid shield in front of the back-four.
Kramer was recalled from a two-year loan at fellow Champions League participants Borussia Monchengladbach in light of Rolfes’ decision to bring down the curtain on his career at the age of 33.
The 24-year-old World Cup winner covered an outstanding 7.89 miles [12.7km] each game last year on average, as Gladbach finished one spot above Bayer, while 86 per cent of his overall passes found their intended target.
Other names to keep an eye on include high-scoring wingers Karim Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son, plus experienced striker Stefan Kiessling, who were responsible for 32 League strikes between them last term.
Sporting director Rudi Voller is a former Roma striker and also briefly Coach of the Giallorossi, thus adding extra spice to the contest.
Meanwhile, speculation surrounding the future of Lazio’s newly-appointed captain Lucas Biglia rumbles along in the background, with Manchester United and Real Madrid reportedly leading the chase for his signature.
That unwelcome disruption, allied to a run of poor results in pre-season, threatens to throw Lazio’s campaign into chaos before it has begun in earnest.
And facing a powerful, well-drilled outfit such as Bayer Leverkusen represents just about the toughest task they could’ve faced at this point.