Mourinho looks for early season silverware in China

BEIJING: Jose Mourinho looks to get Inter Milan's season off to the best possible start by winning the Italian Super Cup on Saturday in China, with Lazio standing in their way.

The Portuguese coach, who signed Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o from Barcelona and Brazil centre-back Lucio from Bayern Munich last month, is keen to defend the trophy they won last year by beating Roma on penalties.

He said they have a more balanced team this season.

"It will be a different Inter because we have players with different characteristics," said the former Chelsea boss.

"I wanted a more balanced team and I can say that this team is more balanced and stronger than a year ago.

"We will have a different game and we will need a bit of time to build it, even if the Super Cup and the start of the championship are near.

"But this is a situation that stimulates me and, from what I have already seen, stimulates the team also."

The season curtain raiser is contested by the winners of Serie A (Inter) and the Coppa Italia (Lazio).

It is usually played at the home of the Serie A champions but in a bid to broaden the appeal of Italian football it has been contested overseas several times before.

Washington played host in 1993, Tripoli in 2002 and New York in 2003.

The date of the match this year was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and will be played in the Bird's Nest stadium that hosted the Games' opening and closing ceremonies.

Eto'o, who signed a five-year contract, made his debut in Inter's 1-0 friendly win over Monaco last week and is itching to lift some silverware as soon as possible.

"Our hope now is to win the Italian Super Cup," he said.

"This season we will be playing every match in the championship as if it's a final. That's what we did at Barcelona."

Mourinho will be keen to see how Eto'o gels up front with Argentina's Diego Milito, who scored the only goal in the Monaco match.

"My understanding with Eto'o? It's still too early to talk about it... but Samuel is a fantastic player," Milito told reporters.

"He truly is a great of the game, so I am hoping to make this a great partnership for the future."

Lazio are in Beijing after beating Sampdoria 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the Coppa Italia and have a new manager in Davide Ballardini.

The 46-year-old former Palermo coach succeeded Delio Rossi who left at the end of the season after falling out of favour with Lazio president Claudio Lotito.

Saturday's match will be Ballardini's official debut.

"It's a final and we will honour it in the best possible way. Am I studying Inter? I respect them, but I first think of my players," Ballardini told Italian media.

"Lazio must have one clear aim, to always be competitive," he added.

"To say how Lazio will play under me would not be fair right now but I do have clear ideas of how to bring out the best in the players."

According to Italian reports, Ballardini is set to take a hard line on several players who have indicated they want to leave the club by axing them for the China trip.

That means the likely absences of Goran Pandev, Cristian Ledesma and Lorenzo De Silvestri.