ROME (AP) — Italian Cup winner Lazio will be the underdog when it faces two-time reigning Serie A champion Juventus in the Supercup on Sunday, but coach Vladimir Petkovic believes his side has nothing to fear.
Juventus has won the Supercup five times and needs one more victory to draw level with AC Milan as the team that has lifted the trophy most often. Lazio has won it three times, beating Juventus in 1998.
"Juventus will be the No. 1 favorite in the league this year too, they have more quality and important players," Petkovic said. "But in one-off games we don't fear anyone, we can compete against everyone.
"We have made progress, we have worked a lot on that," he said. "The squad has been improved, we can give a good display."
Lazio's preseason has included victories over Crystal Palace and Nice, and a draw against Panathinaikos. Juventus will be hoping its offseason results aren't an indicator of what the season has in store.
The Italian champion was stunned 3-1 by the Los Angeles Galaxy in a preseason tournament and also lost on penalties to Everton, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
"What will happen in the first games is always an unknown, especially when you're playing for a trophy," Lazio's Petkovic said. "You go into the match with so many doubts, but also with a few certainties, like the fact that we'll do everything to win."
"We're already mentally prepared and motivated. The only unknown factor is these first official games where you don't yet know what level we're at. It's the same for Juve, seeing how their games have gone. I'm optimistic."
Lazio beat Juventus 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico last season to progress to the Italian Cup final, where it beat bitter rival Roma. The teams drew the first leg in Turin, where their Serie A match last season also ended all square. Juventus won their league encounter in Rome.
If Antonio Conte's team wins on Sunday, it will be the second successive Supercup triumph for Juventus after last season's 4-2 victory over Napoli.
Conte was suspended for that match after being handed a 10-month ban, later reduced to four months, for failing to report match-fixing.
This time, Lazio captain Stefano Mauri has been handed a six-month ban for his part in a match-fixing scandal. The club is appealing the decision, while a prosecutor is seeking a longer ban and calling for Lazio to be docked points.
Juventus took a full 27-man squad to Rome but there are fitness doubts over defender Andrea Barzagli, who missed Italy's 2-1 defeat to Argentina with an ankle problem. Simone Pepe is also included after an injury-plagued season which saw him make just one appearance.
Star strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente should make their official debuts for Juventus.
"The Supercup is an important date which we want to honor in the best of ways," Juventus general director Giuseppe Marotta said. "We won it last year and we certainly want to be the winners again this year."
The match returns to Rome's Stadio Olimpico — where Lazio plays its home games — for the first time since 2001. In the past 12 years it has been played in Libya, the United States and Beijing, as well as in Milan and Turin.
Beijing has hosted the match three times, including the previous two editions, but Juventus refused to travel to China this year.