In most leagues, the winner of the domestic cup and the taker of the title square off before the season begins, a rather pointless match to whip the locals into a frenzy of excitement about the coming year. But Italy has taken this concept a step further -- AC Milan and Inter Milan will meet up in Beijing on Saturday to fight for the Italian Super Cup. The match takes place at the Bird's Nest Stadium, at 13:00 GMT, 7 AM ET -- and it's absolutely certain that this is a game to spread the gospel of Milan and Inter, not one to satisfy the supporters back at home. It may not be the first time the Super Cup has been played on foreign soil (it's been held in the US twice) but it's also not the last time it will be held in Beijing, with a contract to play it there at least two more times before 2014.
Commercial objectives aside, the match could reveal a bit about the upcoming Serie A season. Milan have been quietly going about their business, keeping hold of almost every player that had a role in securing the scudetto last season. They've easily dismantled lower league squads in pre-season play, and watching them train at Adidas headquarters, it's clear that they're a unit, a force to be beaten.
Inter, meanwhile, featured in a comedy of errors early in the summer, approaching and being rejected by potential manager after potential manager. Gian Piero Gasperini now has a lot to prove, and a Super Cup victory over the nerazzurri rivals would go a long way to establishing that Inter really can challenge for the title. But with questions about the future of Samuel Eto'o and Wesley Sneijder still hovering over the team, and Ricky Alvarez still an unknown quantity, the new manager has more than a few hurdles to jump.