Giorgio Chiellini confident Juventus can buck recent trend of Supercoppa defeats

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Though upbeat, Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini admitted that it will be a “difficult match.” (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The atmosphere in Jeddah is at fever pitch as two of Italy’s biggest teams face off on Wednesday. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The atmosphere in Jeddah is at fever pitch as two of Italy’s biggest teams face off on Wednesday. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The atmosphere in Jeddah is at fever pitch as two of Italy’s biggest teams face off on Wednesday. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The atmosphere in Jeddah is at fever pitch as two of Italy’s biggest teams face off on Wednesday. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Giorgio Chiellini confident Juventus can buck recent trend of Supercoppa defeats

  • Skipper also happy the match is being played in Jeddah, and sees it as a ‘step forward’ for Saudi Arabia
  • AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso sidesteps questions about Gonzalo Higuain’s rumored move to English Premier League

JEDDAH: Juventus have been experiencing a worrying trend in cup finals of late. Despite securing the Serie A and Coppa Italia double for three seasons running, they have lost back-to-back Supercoppas and seven out of nine European Cup finals. It is a trend, however, that captain Giorgio Chiellini believes can be halted on Wednesday when his side take on AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana final at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.
“We want to change that trend that has seen us lose the last two Supercoppa finals, and this is the ideal opportunity,” the defender said.

“We have changed a great deal in two years, but we’ve got to prove ourselves with actions rather than words because we let a few too many of these trophies slip through our fingers and it’s a shame.
“It’s going to be a difficult match but the objective is to start 2019 lifting a trophy above our heads.”
Chiellini also defended the choice of Jeddah as the venue for the game against a backdrop of criticism by some. He said that it was “right” to give the Saudi port city the chance to host the showpiece match.
“I am happy this game is being played here and can be seen as a further reason for progress in this country, and I see it as a step forward and not a problem,” he said.

“We (footballers) cannot change the world but initiatives such as this can provide a new start.
“We have been given a warm welcome and I hope tomorrow can be remembered by the Saudi people as a wonderful celebration. We have to provide a spectacle of Italian football and know that all fans will be happy with our performances.”
As the rival teams faced the media on the eve of the match, both were confident about their chances of lifting the first silverware of the Italian season. This year marks the 31st Supercoppa, a match contested by the previous season’s Serie A  champions and the winners of the Coppa Italia. 
This year’s match, the tickets for which reportedly sold out in two days, might also mark a farewell to Italian football for striker Gonzalo Higuain, who is currently on loan to AC Milan from Juventus but is widely rumored to be on the verge of a move to Chelsea. If the Argentine international is indeed on his way out, he will be hoping to end his stay with the Rossoneri with some silverware while also, perhaps, sticking it to his parent club.

Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso (center) said Higuain has never told him he wants to leave the club. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)

Asked about the status of any transfer talks, AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso was careful to avoid feeding the rumor mill.
“At this moment, I have to repeat the same words: there are many rumors but Higuain is training well and working with everyone just fine and is at our disposal,” he said. “I base my decisions on how players train during the week and how they work with the staff and their teammates. We’ll see tomorrow whether he plays or not.
“I want to reiterate that Higuain has never told me he wants to leave. I am waiting for that. He has to decide what to do, how to resolve this issue, but right now he is training with great professionalism. We’ll see.”
Gattuso then nipped this line of questioning in the bud by adding: “I want to be honest; I don’t even want to talk about Higuain as we’re here for the Supercoppa.”
Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, meanwhile, is well aware that while they are undefeated in Serie A this season after 19 games, with 17 wins and two draws, league form counts for little in a cup final, as evidenced by their recent results in such games. As such, he is keen to avoid any complacency among his players.
“One of the great strengths of this team is our respect for the opposition, otherwise you don’t win as many games as we have,” he said. “There are 22 points separating our teams in Serie A but those don’t matter here. If we do not have great humility and respect for Milan tomorrow, then it’s unlikely we will win the game.”
The prematch press conference inevitably included questions about Cristiano Ronaldo. Since his €112 million ($128 million) move to Juventus from Real Madrid last summer, the Portuguese star has netted 15 goals in 25 appearances. On Wednesday, the five-time winner of the Ballon d'Or — an award presented each year by France Football magazine to the player judged to be the best in the world — will aim to lift his maiden trophy with his new club, after having bagged 15 titles during his nine years with the Spanish giants.
While Ronaldo did not appear at the press conference, Allegri was asked whether the striker had arrived in Italy with a stronger and hungrier desire to win.
“He would have to win something first to prove that,” the coach said. “Cristiano is accustomed to winning; he has won four of the past five Champions Leagues and many more titles. Ronaldo is the best player in the world and clearly an added bonus for us. Our situation has certainly improved with his presence.”
Wednesday night’s match is sure to be hotly contested, as Juventus and AC Milan currently share the record for Supercoppa titles, with seven each. While Juventus are making their seventh successive Supercoppa appearance, it is perhaps AC Milan who can lay claim to bragging rights, given that the last time these two teams met in the Supercoppa, in 2016, the Rossoneri ended up on top following a penalty shoot-out after the game ended in a 1-1 draw after extra-time. With all the talking officially done, all that remains is a historic night of top quality football at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.


Kusal Perera the hero as Sri Lanka pull off stunning run chase to beat South Africa in Durban

Updated 16 February 2019
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Kusal Perera the hero as Sri Lanka pull off stunning run chase to beat South Africa in Durban

DURBAN: Sri Lanka pulled off a stunning against-the-odds run chase to beat South Africa by one wicket in the first Test on Saturday as Kusal Perera almost single-handedly won the game with his 153 not out.
Chasing an unlikely 304, Sri Lanka were 226-9 and seemingly out of it. But a last-wicket partnership of 78 between Perera and Vishwa Fernando took the tourists to a thrilling victory on the fourth day.
Perera scored 68 of those 78 runs, but Fernando hung in for 27 balls for his 6 not out to allow Perera to guide the tourists home.
Sri Lanka’s victory gives them a 1-0 lead in the short two-test series and ends South Africa’s run of seven straight home series wins.
Sri Lanka’s 304-9 was the third-highest successful run chase in nearly 100 years of Test cricket at the Kingsmead ground in Durban.
Perera won it with a late cut down to the boundary for four, prompting Sri Lankan players to sprint from the dressing room and out onto the pitch to congratulate their match winner. Perera removed his helmet and thrust both arms up in the air to celebrate one of the best innings ever by a Sri Lankan.
Sri Lanka have lost their last three series and had two debutants and a new captain for the first test, meaning few people gave the inexperienced visiting team a chance against South Africa.