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Stuart Harper On August - 9 - 2011

AC Milan - Supercoppa, Super Confident

Pre-season games often be no more than glorified fitness sessions, and with due respect, the ‘Supercoppa de Italia’ could be that type of encounter, struggling to elevate itself beyond ‘kick about level’ - certainly for players accustomed to scudetti and Champions League endeavours.

But while the cachet of a Supercoppa triumph is debatable, an early opportunity for Milan to lay down a psychological marker against bitterest rivals Inter, made this year’s contest palpably meaningful.

After the game, Massimiliano Allegri hinted that in the great scheme of things, this game wasn’t exactly a significant addition to what is a burgeoning palmares, preferring to focus on the mantra, ‘a derby is a derby’ – but herein lies the reason behind why the Beijing result proves a credible precursor for the season ahead.

Never one to deal in apathy, it was Rino Gattuso’s usual brand of commitment that led to the game’s opening goal. A typically agricultural tackle engendered Inter’s wrath, and subsequently offered their tifosi a fresh reason to lament Wesley Sneijder’s somewhat inevitable departure. The mercurial Dutchman bent an inch perfect free-kick past Christian Abbiati and proceeded to protect that advantage until half-time.

On the hour mark Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed home from close range to equalize, and ten minutes later Kevin Prince Boateng gave Milan a lead which would prove unassailable. Neither goals were particularly spectacular, but both were perfect examples of a predatory finish - goals where sharpness and sheer hunger gets the striker in a position to capitalise – signs that Allegri’s troops are indeed game ready and nobody is resting on laurels.

But before Milanisti start crowing too loudly about the Bird’s Nest victory, it is important to note certain absentees from Inter’s squad – Lucio, Milito, Cambiasso and Maicon were all missing from Gian Piero Gasperini’s first derby encounter - the new coach electing to rest the key quartet who were all involved in Coppa America action.

Arguably, this group of South American talent forms the spine of Inter’s unit and without them; Milan’s task was made easier by some margin. This said; if Allegri is looking to Inter as the most credible threat to Milan’s scudetto defence, it will be fascinating to see if the return of the rested South American contingency is tempered by the loss of chief orchestrator, Wesley Sneijder.

As evidenced by his sublime free-kick, it is apparent that Sneijder offers Inter a distinctly creative threat and without him, they will undoubtedly prove to be a lesser force. So, aside from just an early opportunity for one-upmanship based on the result alone, there are clear pragmatic precursors by which Allegri can assimilate if not the extent of Milan’s own strength, then certainly the strengths and weaknesses of their most immediate challengers.

And herein is the main positive for Milan’s tifosi - a psychological fillip. So much so that since Saturday’s fixture members of the AC Milan camp have been vociferously positive – Gattuso has called upon Ibrahimovic to bag thirty-goals this campaign while Thiago Silva has called upon the Rossoneri to usurp the likes of Barcelona to ‘win everything’.  Without the Supercoppa triumph would the camp’s sense of belief be so bullish?

By contrast, early consternation now surrounds the reign of Inter’s new coach and with established players as Thiago Motta vocalising their frustration, a seemingly innocuous pre-season game, albeit a derby, will now resonate into the forthcoming season ahead. Add the almost inevitable departure of Sneijder and it becomes easy to understand the source of Milan’s bullishness.

Yes this was an entertaining match, and while it represented a trophy for AC Milan, Massimiliano Allegri will profit more from the psychological positives engendered in Beijing - rather than gleaning anything new from a tactical standpoint. From that perspective, not to mention the commercial positives of taking AC Milan to the Far East, the benefits may well be felt well into the new season and certainly when the Derby della Madoninna next takes place.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Peter says:

    I don’t know that the Super Cup is that make-or-break for a season. The funny thing is Milan did not even control the game outside of those 10 minutes. The buildup to both goals was iffy at best; and I do not think that Milan should be proud of how they played.

    The fact is this derby was much more reminiscent of the 2009-2010 matches, and I think Milan should not be all that positive after barely defeating a 3-week old Gasperini team.

  2. milanista heykeens says:

    we’re progressing this season.. forza milan

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