Italian season starts with Milan derby in China

AP, Wednesday 3 Aug 2011

Having traveled 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) to face its city rival AC Milan in this weekend’s Italian Super Cup, Inter Milan will be aiming to improve on its previous result in Beijing two years ago

AC Milan

While the grand San Siro stadium the two clubs share sits idle in Milan this weekend, the fierce rivals will be playing in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium for the Super Cup—the traditional curtain raiser for the Italian season, played between the previous season’s Serie A winners and Coppa Italia victors.

Inter played in the same fixture at the same venue two years ago and lost 2-1 to Lazio, and the team’s new manager Gian Piero Gasperini—who has taken over from Leonardo—is aiming to go one better on Saturday.

“I don’t have a crystal ball but we are here to try to win the Super Cup that Inter could have taken home two years ago in Beijing. And to play against AC Milan makes the event even more prestigious,” Gasperini told SNTV.

Inter Milan and AC Milan jointly share the Super Cup record, both winning the cup five times.

Last season, AC Milan beat Inter twice in the league en route to taking the title, but manager Massimiliano Allegri said last season’s edge will not necessarily extend into the new campaign.

“Last season was the past. It doesn’t mean we have an advantage this time,” said Allegri. “Inter and us are considering the Super Cup match very seriously. It is an important trophy we are eager to win. We will do all we can do on Saturday.”

Inter midfielder Wesley Sneijder has been linked with a move to Manchester United, but Gasperini played down the rumors.

“There is no Sneijder problem. He is playing for us, training with us and he will play on Saturday. That is all I can say about him.”

Inter captain Javier Zanetti, replacing the injured Yuto Nagatomo, joined in a training session in Beijing on Tuesday, but his fellow Argentines Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso were still on holiday after playing in last month’s Copa America.

Another Argentine, Ricardo Alvarez, joined Inter this summer from Velez Sarsfield, and the 23-year old midfielder is eager to claim his first trophy for his new club.

“It’s a hugely important achievement for me to be playing for Inter, and it’s an honor to be representing the club in China. I hope that Inter can do well in the Super Cup, in fact I’m sure they can,” he said.

Three of the next four Italian Super Cups will be played in China to help promote Italian football in Asia.

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