All roads lead to KASC Stadium


JEDDAH — All roads lead to King Abdullah Sports City Stadium here for the prestigious Italian Supercoppa match between Serie A champion Juventus and AC Milan Tuesday.

The one-off match is normally between the reigning Serie A and Italian Cup champions. As Juventus won both trophies last season it is taking on AC Milan, the losing Cup finalists this time.

Juventus, reinforced with Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo this season, is raring to go for the first trophy of 2019 here.

It will the 10th time the Super Cup final has been played abroad in 31 editions, with the United States, China and Qatar hosting previous matches.

Juventus’s Brazilian defender Alex Sandro said he was expecting “a different type of game”.

“I’ve been there (Jeddah) with Brazil already and I think the Saudis have taken a step forward.

“They have a different fan base and culture, but I think it’ll be a good final.”

Massimiliano Allegri’s side is unbeaten so far in Serie A, and will be pushing for its first title of the season.

Ronaldo is top of the Serie A scorers chart with 14 goals since arriving last summer from Real Madrid on a 110-million-euro ($126 million) deal.

But Juventus’s record is mixed in recent Super Cups having won just one of the last four editions — losing to AC Milan in 2016 and Lazio.

Both Juventus and AC Milan have won seven Super Cup titles each since the trophy was first awarded in 1988.

The game in Jeddah could also be a farewell one for AC Milan forward Gonzalo Higuain, who will be looking for revenge against his parent club Juventus ahead of a touted move to Chelsea.

Higuain — who moved to Milan to make way for Ronaldo — missed a penalty and was sent off when AC Milan lost 2-0 to Juventus the last time the two sides met in the league last November.

AC Milan, which landed in Jeddah Sunday, took to training at Ittihad Sports Center Monday, while Juventus arrived here only Monday evening.

The Rossoneri performed a technical-tactical workout after an initial warm-up phase with player positioning training and ball possession on the half pitch. A training match and long-distance shooting practice were carried out on the half pitch before mingling with the many Arab fans present to snap pictures with their favorite players.

A number of players have been giving interviews to the media too. Let us take a look at some of them:

Leonardo Bonnucci

“We’re desperate to win the first trophy of the season. We’ve come here with the enthusiasm we need to achieve our objective. We’ll need to show aggression and focus, because coach (Gennaro) Gattuso has shown that he can get AC Milan playing good football and that can cause teams problems. We need to cut down the space, break up their passing game and take advantage of any errors they make.

“We want to produce a great performance in front of a full stadium — we’re used to that because the atmosphere at Allianz Stadium is always very good. It’s good to see such big stadiums sold out. It will be exciting and give us a boost.”

Emre Can

“It’s going to be a great game with a trophy up for grabs. I’d never been to Saudi Arabia before so I’m pleased to get this experience. There’s a great atmosphere and we’ll try to make it even better with a great performance. It’s going to be a tough game, like all finals are. We’ll need to be focused from the off.”

Paulo Dybala

“It’s great to be here for such an important final. We’ve already faced AC Milan in the league — we produced a great performance and played some good football — but it will be different tomorrow because it’s a final. It’s always a tough game against them, but we want to get the same result. We’re in good shape and on form. The most important thing is to play good football to win the game. The stadium is sold out so there will be a great atmosphere and the ideal conditions for a final like this.

“My first Super Cup in Shanghai was unforgettable. I’d only just joined and I was sitting on the bench, desperate to get on and get a goal — and that’s what I did. That was a wonderful night in China and I hope to have another one here in Jeddah.”

Wojciech Szczesny

“We need to play a perfect game. It’s a one-off match and we need to give everything. We know that AC Milan have some quality players and play with maturity. We have a very strong mentality and we know how to win trophies, so we hope that proves to be the difference. The stadium is sold out and rightly so — that’s the kind of atmosphere we need.

“The team showed good movement against Bologna. It’s always difficult to get back into it after the winter break — the tempo is slower and you need to be well-organized and not take risks that could lead to you conceding. We put in a lot of effort and were able to do that and achieve our objective of getting through to the next round.” — SG

Juve and AC Milan go for Supercoppa