The first trophy of the Italian football season is on the line on Wednesday when fierce rivals Inter and Milan face off for the Supercoppa Italiana at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
Scudetto holders Milan and last season’s Coppa Italia winners Inter appear well out of the Serie A title race at the midway point this time around, trailing leaders Napoli by nine and 10 points respectively.
Inter are still in the mix for silverware elsewhere this campaign, though, as they have a Champions League last-16 tie with Porto on the horizon and are also through to the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia.
As for Milan, they are also in the first knockout round of Europe’s primary club competition – where Tottenham await over two legs – but they were eliminated from the Coppa Italia with a 1-0 defeat to Torino in extra time last week.
— Inter (@Inter_en)
It is fair to say that Rossoneri head coach Stefano Pioli has a fair bit of money in the bank should this season end trophyless, having ended the club’s 11-year wait for Scudetto success last season.
But defeat to neighbours Inter in Saudi Arabia, coupled with that big gap on Napoli, could lead to some questions being asked.
If that sounds extreme on the face of it, let us remember this is a club that got through seven managers in the seven years preceding Pioli’s appointment.
Inzaghi has less goodwill to play with, and Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport reported in the build-up to the Supercoppa tie that the former striker has been told Wednesday’s match must be used as a turning point in a below-par season.
The showdown between two of Italy’s three most successful clubs has plenty riding on it, then, but what does recent history tell us about teams winning the Supercoppa and what it meant for the rest of their seasons?
Inzaghi to join elite list?
The Supercoppa has now been staged midway through the season in Saudi Arabia for three of the past five years (this is the final year of the arrangement), the exceptions being in 2020 and 2021 when it was held in Italy due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since then, the reigning Serie A winners have prevailed against their opponents three times out of four. The anomaly in that sequence? A Lazio side managed by a certain Inzaghi that saw off Juventus 3-1.
Indeed, having also won the Supercoppa in 2019 and last year with Inter, Inzaghi could join legendary figures Fabio Capello and Marcelo Lippi as the most successful coaches in the competition’s history.
Lazio also finished fourth in Serie A that season – the only time they have finished in the top four in the seven seasons either side – but they had entered the Supercoppa showdown with Juventus sitting one place higher.
From collecting 2.25 points per game across their 16 matches, Lazio’s form dropped slightly to 1.91 per game in the final 22 games.
There are plenty of other factors to consider, of course, but the same was also true of Inter after winning this cup last season.
The Nerazzurri were top of the table on January 12 when beating Juventus 2-1 to lift their first piece of silverware under Inzaghi, averaging 2.45 points per game up until that point.
In the subsequent four months, that dipped to 1.94 points per game and they were pipped to the title by Milan, although they did at least win the Coppa Italia.
Juve are another example of results dipping after winning the competition – as a direct consequence or otherwise – going from 2.79 points per game to 1.95 either side of defeating Milan in Jeddah.
However, given just how good they were in the first half of that season, they still retained top spot in Serie A.
Juventus in 2020-21 is the outlier in our sample as they improved on a return of 1.94 points per game on average to 2.14 either side of seeing off Napoli 2-0 on January 20, 2021.
The Bianconeri went from fifth to fourth and qualified for the Champions League, yet that was not enough to keep Andrea Pirlo in a job.
Effectively, then, teams tend to drop off after winning the Supercoppa, rather than using it as a platform to push on. And on more than one occasion, lifting the trophy has not been enough to keep a coach in place beyond that season.
So while Pioli and Inzaghi in particular will consider this an opportunity to potentially transform their respective sides’ Serie A campaigns and reel in Napoli, the stats show that is highly unlikely to happen.