It seems like it was yesterday Stefano Mauri lifted the Coppa Italia trophy and Lazio were crowned champions of the 2012/2013 domestic league cup. As is customary the first official game of the season, taking place one week before the start of the league, the cup winners and the league winners go head to head in one game that will decide who brings home the first trophy of the year.
With Juventus winning back to back scudetti the mighty northerners will travel to Rome in hopes of kicking their season off in style with yet another Supercoppa after defeating Napoli 4-2 last year. Ironically the attacking line and the goal scoring ability of the Zebras was what was lacking last season, at least when trying to fight the strongest teams in Europe and it is on that department Agnelli and Conte have been focusing over the summer. Two of the most prolific strikers on the continent, Tevez and Llorente, have been brought in to guarantee a heavy striking force that also consists of Giovinco, Matri, Quagliarella and Vucinic. Two of these are guaranteed to leave before the end of August, but so far neither of the strikers have been successful in finding a club to leave for. The reigning champions have also been busy strengthening the back by adding Ogbonna from city rivals Torino. Add to this the fact that the team is more or less intact when comparing squads to last season and there is no doubt that Juventus will be massive favourites not only to win this game, but also the league this upcoming season.
A quick glance at Lazio shows that Lotito and Tare, in cooperation with Petkovic, have seen the squad from last year – the squad that brought the team to a not so flattering seventh place but that got the season saved, to say the least, with that historic derby win late May – as strong enough. The Romans have been busy bringing in players, names such as Novaretti, Vinicius, Biglia and Anderson are all new, but neither could be seen as a massive step towards bringing Lazio to a top three position this coming season. Anderson is still out injured, which he has been since his arrival and no one seems to know when the Brazilian will be ready to make his first appearance, while Novaretti is untested in Europe despite being 28 years old already. Lazio desperately needed to bring in some fresh leagues in the back line in the summer, but apart from the mentioned Argentinean the focus has been to make sure Dias, Biava, Cana, Radu, Konko and Stankevicius are all remaining with the team. A worrying sign, to say the least.
The only one of the newbies in the squad that is looking to break straight into the eleven is Lucas Biglia. The ex-Anderlecht captain has been played alongside Ledesma in recent friendlies and with the status of being a starter for the Argentinean national team he should have good chances of becoming the same for la Lazio. Critics in Italy as well as on our own forum have seen the arrival of Biglia as a replacement of Ledesma, while others have seen the capture as the perfect company to the Lazio vice-captain. It remains to be seen how the Bosnian tactician decides to field his troops, but if there was any department that looked solid before the summer it was the midfield – which ironically is the department that has seen most new additions. Just as the opponents of Sunday night the main strength lies in the fact that the team managed to keep hold of influential pieces; names such as Hernanes, Klose, Candreva and Lulic are all still around. Ederson, a player worth commenting despite not being new, is probably the biggest surprise of the off-season as the Brazilian has managed to keep away from injuries and has been the player making most of an impression and impact in the summer friendlies. Also Rozzi, promoted from the Primavera and set to wear the iconic number 9 the upcoming season, has looked impressive and all Laziali around the world are hoping for a break through for the kid.
It is hard to have any greater opinion on how things will unfold on Sunday, but surely Lazio will be smiling as they enter the pitch and are met by a fully packed Curva Nord. The fact the venue was moved from Beijing, China to Stadio Olimpico in Rome is nothing but a positive detail for the Biancocelesti and added to the fact that Lazio came on top in the Coppa Italia semis against Juventus last season gives the underdogs hopes of a great start to the season.
Historically, the league winners are the side to travel home with the trophy after this game. The Supercoppa has been played since 1988 in the current format and the 25 previous games have seen the Serie A winners walk off victorious 19 times. Juventus are the third most successful team in this aspect with 5 wins in 8 attempts, followed by Lazio with 3 wins out of 4 finals. Juventus' last win came last year against Napoli, while Lazio beat Inter in Beijing in 2009. All Laziali are well aware of the fact that a win in the Supercoppa does not automatically mean that a good season is ahead as the 2009/2010 season under Ballardini was a great failure despite the bright start. In that game Matuzalem and Rocchi scored, two players that are no longer in the squad and therefore new names will have to step forward if the team is to lift the fourteenth trophy in the club's history – matching the same number of trophies as the team from the darker side of the Italian capital.
At 21.00 referee Rocchi will let the game get started and before midnight the outcome will be settled. It might be within the 90 minutes or it might be after extra time and penalties, but the game needs a winner. It would not be a surprise to see the game reach extra time, one fourth of the finals have needed more than 90 minutes to be decided and the final is usually a game with many goals – a little above three goals is the average number scored within the ordinary time – with only one game ending 0-0.
Juventus: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichsteiner, Pirlo, Marchisio, Vidal, Asamoah, Vucinic, Tevez.
Lazio: Marchetti, Konko, Biava, Dias, Radu, Ledesma, Biglia, Candreva, Hernanes, Lulic, Klose.