#Inter star sets sights on overcoming Lazio at Al Awwal Park on Friday, kick off 10pm

#Mkhitaryan – ‘What the Saudi association is doing for football in Saudi Arabia is great’

#Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri – ‘We are excited, we have a difficult match against one of the strongest teams in Europe, and we must play in an ambitious way’

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Inter’s attacking midfielder, may have won 21 club trophies in his career, but he wants more – starting by retaining the EA SPORTS FC Supercup that the Italian giants won in Riyadh last year.

The Armenian played the full 90 minutes last January as Inter, who also won the Coppa Italia last season and reached the UEFA Champions League final, beat city rivals AC Milan 3-0 in the Saudi Arabian capital city.

Besides those achievements, Inter’s 34-year-old No.22 has also won trophies with Pyunik in Armenia, Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Manchester United in England, and fellow Italian side Roma in a fabulously decorated career.

When Mkhitaryan looks back on his playing days, however, he wants as many winning memories as possible – and the next step in that quest is beating Lazio in the Supercup semi-final at Al Awwal Park on Friday at 10pm.

Speaking at a press conference prior to the EA SPORTS FC Supercup semi-final, Mkhitaryan said: “We have to do our best to win and go through to the final. I’ve won (over) 20 trophies, but I want to win more because at the end of my football career that’s what counts.

“It’s not easy but we will try to do our best. To win trophies is always a pleasure so we want to make ourselves happy. The most important thing is to win tomorrow and then win the final.”

Armenia’s 95-times capped international star is also a huge fan of the rapid advancements being made in football in the Kingdom.

Mkhitaryan added: “What the Saudi association is doing for football in Saudi Arabia is great, it’s wonderful. It’s not a secret because as you can see a lot of world-class players have come here to play and enjoy the football here and help the progress of Saudi football.

“Of course, we are not going to see the full progress in one or two years, they need more time. There are many things to improve such as the infrastructure and the academies and I think after five or six years you can see the progress and results.”

Simone Inzaghi, the Inter manager, is also relishing the prospect of another Supercup victory and added: “I have to choose the players carefully because it is a knockout match.

“To train and play at Inter, you must get used to these pressures and have great aspirations, and our first goal this season is to achieve the Super Cup. Tomorrow we face a strong team, and in the last match in the league, although we won, they were very tough.

“We cannot expect what will happen in tomorrow’s match, and the matches against Lazio are special. They are a great team and have won five consecutive matches, and we are accustomed to playing matches like this. Right now, our main attention is on the Italian Super Cup. I ask the Saudi fans to support us as they did last year.”

Lazio, however, have also achieved success in Saudi Arabia – winning the fifth Supercup of their history in Riyadh in December 2019 against Juventus.

Ciro Immobile, the Lazio captain and striker, said: “We feel the importance of the match. It’s two finals – the semi-final and then, hopefully, the final. We are very happy with what we did last year and want to enjoy the match.”

Having lost to Inter a month ago 2-0 at home in Serie A following goals from Lautaro Martinez after 40 minutes and Marcus Thuram shortly after the hour mark, Lazio are seeking revenge.

Immobile said: “We know what happened in the previous game against Inter, which was a big test. We produced a solid 40 minutes but unfortunately, we didn’t score. We need to improve on some things for this game.

Immobile, who played in that final in 2019, recently returned to the Lazio team as a substitute in their 1-0 win over Lecce after missing the previous few matches with a hamstring injury.

The 33-year-old, a Euro 2020 champion with Italy, commented: “I needed the 15 minutes I played against Lecce to help regain match sharpness.”

Maurizio Sarri, the Lazio manager, added of the Supercup semi-final: “We are excited, we have a difficult match against one of the strongest teams in Europe, and we must play in an ambitious way. We must not make mistakes.”

Asked his thoughts on how big the Saudi Pro League can become, Sarri replied: “The arrival of important names stimulates interest, as the technical part is something worth seeing. I hope for Saudi Arabia that this movement will develop.”

The winners of the Inter versus Lazio semi-final face whoever emerges victorious in Thursday’s semi-final at Al Awwal Park between Napoli and Fiorentina.

The 36th edition of the historic Supercoppa Italiana, to be held from January 18-22, marks the fourth time that the prestigious competition is being held in the Kingdom.

The Supercup was first held in Saudi Arabia in 2019 when a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo – now starring at Al Nassr – in Jeddah earned Juventus a 1-0 win over AC Milan.

The following edition saw Lazio defeat Juve 3-1 in Riyadh, while last year Inter beat AC Milan 3-0 in the Saudi Arabian capital city.

For the first time ever, the Supercup features four teams – the winners and runners up of Lega Serie A and the Coppa Italia. It is the latest illustration of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to host the very best international events across all sports, with football right at the forefront.

Some 80% of Saudi Arabians either play, attend, or follow football and many support international – including Italian – clubs. The passion of Saudi people and the young population is the driving force behind the Kingdom bringing such prestigious tournaments.

While enabling the Kingdom to build relationships and showcase the unique football culture to the world, hosting events like these provides new opportunities for the Saudi people to be inspired, pursue dreams, and realise potential.

Italy’s Supercup follows the recent success of its four-team Spanish counterpart earlier this month, which concluded with Real Madrid defeating Barcelona in an incredible Spanish Super Cup final in Riyadh. The competition also featured La Liga sides Atletico Madrid and CA Osasuna.

Both competitions help kick-start an incredible year-round schedule of international sports in the Kingdom, with football, motorsport, tennis, esports, combat sports, golf, and equestrian events all locked in for 2024.

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