The game between AC Milan and Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday night carries extra weight in addition to the trophy they are playing for as both sides are looking to find their identity again.
La Gazzetta dello Sport begin by mentioning Milan and questioning what the mindset would be going into their next league game on January 24 away against Lazio if they were to lose the derby, given that the Roman club would move one point behind the Rossoneri with a win. After collecting two points in the last two league games and being knocked out of the Coppa Italia, a response is needed.
The same applies to Inter who are not playing close to their top level having thrown away a win at Monza and just about getting past struggling Verona 1-0 at San Siro over the weekend, remaining 10 points behind leaders Inter.
Winning the Supercoppa might not have an impact on Spalletti’s Napoli and their incredible pace, but it would be a big bang of sorts ahead of the return league derby on February 5 and the Champions League which is about to start again.
Recalling the games against Napoli each team have played, Inter were the only team to beat them so far in Serie A, while Milan dominated them for a long time and didn’t deserve to lose so the chasm in the ranking does not correspond to such a difference in quality.
In Saudi Arabia, Simone Inzaghi and Stefano Pioli will have to channel ferocious motivation out of the hearts of their players in a delicate moment and convince their troops that Riyadh is a decisive battleground.
Pioli was the primary architect of one of the more surprising league title wins in recent Serie A history in what was a tactical masterpiece but also a psychological one, as he gave courage and self-esteem to a squad inferior to others.
He also brought the best out of young players like Pierre Kalulu, who arrived from Lyon without a Ligue 1 appearance, as well as Tonali, Leao and Theo Hernandez. However, the difference this season is that the defence have lost concentration and requiring three goals to win games is not a healthy situation.
On the other hand, the first thing Inzaghi said after the victory over Napoli was ‘with the right motivations you win’. If Inter play as they can then they are arguably the best side in the league, and with three Super Cups won out of three, Simone wants to make it four to give his side a charge.