PRE MATCH SUPERCOPPA: JUVENTUS VS NAPOLI
Bitter rivals from either side of the North-South divide, Juventus and Napoliclash at the Mapei Stadium on Wednesday, in the 33rd edition of the Supercoppa Italiana.
With the first silverware of the season at stake, the Serie A champions take on last season's Coppa Italia winners - a repeat of June's dramatic cup final in Rome.
While Italy's most decorated club, Juventus, have claimed the Supercoppa trophy eight times since it was first awarded in 1988 (in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018), Napoli have done so just twice - beating the Bianconeri on both occasions (1990 and 2014).
This time, Andrea Pirlo's outfit approach potentially one of the most explosive games of the season on the back of a devastating Derby d'Italia defeat to fellow Scudetto contenders Inter Milan on Sunday.
Champions for nine seasons running, Juve had been making up ground lost due to a succession of draws in the autumn by winning their first three fixtures of 2021, including their last trip to San Siro - a convincing 3-1 success against Milan.
Victory on Sunday would have taken Pirlo's men one point behind Inter with a game in hand - to be played versus Napoli at a yet to be determined date - but they were picked off at will by Antonio Conte's ruthless counter-attacking unit.
Questions remain, then, about the capabilities of their rookie coach and his squad's progression since the playmaking legend took charge in the summer. Certainly, Pirlo's old Bianconeri boss Conte won the tactical battle of 'Master versus Apprentice', as old reliables Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonnucci were constantly caught out in Milan.
That momentum-shattering defeat leaves Juventus fifth in the Serie A standings- one point and two places behind Wednesday's super-motivated Supercoppa opponents.
Juventus can finally get one over on Napoli for the first time in five final attempts, by bouncing back from a disappointingly disjointed display to prove their mettle.
Though this much-anticipated Supercoppa clash could conceivably go either way, Napoli may find Juve just too difficult to stop - certainly if the Bianconeri's experienced strikers are back on track.
Final Score: Juventus 2 Napoli 0