Torino Hang Around and Enter Top Four Race

With much of the attention surrounding the top four race going to Milan, Roma, and Lazio, Walter Mazzarri’s plucky Torino side have flown under the radar, but are still in it with a chance. With just five games to go, I Granata are in seventh place, however, sit just three points back of fourth place Milan. Playing in Mazzarri’s patented 3-5-2 with veteran leadership spread evenly across the pitch, Torino have proven to be one of the harder sides to break down within the peninsula, and hurt the opposition on the break through Andrea Belotti, and Iago Falque.

Torino are undefeated in their last five clashes, and are currently in good form ahead of a crucial stage. Next week, Torino’s top four credentials will be put to the ultimate test when they take on Milan in a direct clash for European football. A win against the struggling rossoneri would put them on equal points awaiting other clashes, and would signal their Champions League intent to the rest of the pack.

While Champions League football is unlikely given that there are five teams vying for one spot, all sides in the top four race have displayed a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot at crucial points. Just this past weekend, Roma, Milan, and Lazio all dropped points in games they should have won. As a result, the likes of Atalanta and Torino have been able to stick around the top four, and have a legitimate chance going into the final match-days.

After taking on Milan, Torino will travel down the street to take on their fierce rivals Juventus at the Allianz Stadium. While the bianconeri have regularly bested Torino over the years, they have already clinched the Scudetto, and will already be thinking of their summer vacation. After his side’s triumph over Fiorentina, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri admitted himself today that he will try new schemes in the remaining five games. With Juve experimenting, they will likely field a wealth of their youngsters and try to blood them through. This gives Torino a unique opportunity to use their experience, and claim,what would be, a crucial three points to their top four aspirations.

Following their clash with Juve, Torino then close the season against Sassuolo, Empoli, and Lazio. While the first two opponents should be straightforward, it’s their last clash that will determine their fate.

Right now, Torino are spreading responsibility in the final third wonderfully, and don’t simply rely on one player to see them through. In fact, there are seven players on their roster this season with at least three goals or more. This includes defenders, defensive midfielders, wingers and of course, their highly rated talisman Andrea Belotti. Factor in Salvatore Sirigu’s exploits, and it’s clear to see why Torino have been hard to beat this season.

With their side firing on all cylinders, Torino could just be this season’s surprise package in Serie A and snatch Champions League football under from everyone’s noses. Until now, they haven’t received many plaudits for their efforts, but expect that to change if they were to overcome Milan.

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Walter Mazzarri Is Back At His Best

Liverpool v Torino - Pre-Season Friendly - AnfieldWhen Walter Mazzarri was appointed as Torino boss last January, I Granata were languishing on the outskirts of the mid-table and were a side without a clear identity. Fast forward a year later and Torino have become one of the toughest teams to break down in the peninsula and are now pushing for a spot in next year’s Europa League. While Atalanta have received all the plaudits for their offensive football, Mazzarri’s 
side are their antithesis, and sit on 38 points alongside Gli Orobici. 

After a failed stint in England that saw his contract terminated at the end of his first season, Mazzarri’s reputation took a hit. Long gone were the memories of his Napoli side  that, along with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani, pushed the envelope beating the likes of Juventus, Inter, and Chelsea in the process. Instead, unsuccessful tenures with Inter and Watford came to define the Italian tactician. That’s why his move to Torino was so important. Back with the familiarity of the Italian mid-table, Mazzarri could finally be himself again after years of trying to be someone he wasn’t.

Since assuming the reigns at the club, Mazzarri has steadied the ship and has made the most of the roster at his disposal. Using his trademark 3-5-2, the former Napoli tactician has transformed Andrea Belotti into a more complete striker, beyond what the stat-sheet might show. At the back, Armando Izzo, who arrived in the summer from Genoa, has been Mazzarri’s undisputed leader and has led by example. Alongside Nkoulou and Moretti, the trio have formed one of the league’s most solid partnerships at the back and have only conceded 22 goals – a feat only bested by the current top four.

In fact, in their last five games I Granata have managed five clean sheets beating the likes of Inter and Atalanta, and held Napoli to a stalemate. Torino also have their keeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank in large part, as the Italian international has played his best football since his Palermo days. After an inconsistent couple of years in Paris and a few loan moves, Sirigu has once again emerged as one of the nation’s top shot-stoppers and has been in top form this season.

Factor in Chelsea loanee Ola Aina’s industry and creativity from the left wing along with De Silvestri’s experience and veteran leadership, and Torino are one tough side to score on, let alone beat.

Mazzarri’s Torino is very similar to any of his past sides that he’s had success with. A compact trio in the midfield, a dangerous duo up top complimenting each other, all-while relying on a resolute defence. We’ve seen this before. With Tomas Rincon acting as the midfield hard-man, as his ten yellow cards would suggest, Daniele Baselli and Soualiho Meité are able to get forward to supply Iago Falque and Belotti. As a whole, Mazzarri’s Torino come together as a real force, and are proof that the sum could be greater than its parts.

Whether or not they qualify for the Europa League remains to be seen as the competition is fierce, however, if Torino have showed us anything this season, it’s that Walter Mazzarri is truly back at his best and it’s wonderful to see.

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Are Torino’s defense & grinta enough to get back to Europe?

ACF Fiorentina v Torino FC - Serie A

 

When you look at their competitors in the upper mid table, it’s easy to see why Torino have been overlooked in recent years. Atalanta have developed numerous prospects for top Serie A teams while playing exciting football under Gasperini, Sampdoria groomed Torreira and Skriniar while creating an environment for Quagliarella to have the best stretch of his career at a on age where most strikers retire, Fiorentina have continued their tradition of having exciting offensive players.

But Torino on the other hand are mainly known for their defense, grit and tradition- basically all the things many Premier League fans mock Serie A for. But in recent weeks things are starting to change for the Granata as they are called because of the color of their iconic jerseys.
Mazzarri has built a team in his image- gritty, stubborn and someone who will make their opponents as uncomfortable as possible on the pitch. Torino haven’t given up a goal in their last five matches and are now in position to qualify for the Europa League, an impressive achievement if you consider that Milan and Inter are on their way back to prominence, Lazio kept all of their best players except for Vrij (and replaced him well with Acerbi) on top of Atalanta and Sampdoria living up to expectations.
In recent years Torino’s president Cairo and sporting director Petrachi have taken a very pragmatic, steady and gradual approach to rebuilding the team after the sales of prominent players like Immobile, Cerci, Darmian and captain Glik. They have assembled one of the best defenses in Serie A by acquiring keeper Sirigu, defenders Nkolou and Djidji arrived from Ligue 1 and Izzo from Genoa.
At the wingback position Torino went with a mix of experience an youth. They brought in former Sampdoria captain Lorenzo De Silvestri, one of the most underrated right backs in Serie A in recent years as well as exciting Chelsea prospect Ola Aina for the left side. The Nigerian defender has been one of the most pleasant surprises in Serie A this season making his ten million euro option to buy a massive bargain.
NKolou and Djidji weren’t the only impactful additions to arrive from France in recent years since Petrachi and Cairo also hit a home run by swapping left back Barreca for midfielder Soualiho Meite’ who has fit in perfectly playing next to Daniele Baselli and Tomas Rincon, another player who perfectly embodies the Torino spirit.
While the defense and midfield have certainly exceeded expectations, the same cannot be said for the attack- an area of the squad Torino have put a lot of effort into but that also offers them some significant margin for improvement.
belotti
On one of the best recent Rolling Stones song “Rough Justice”, Mick Jagger signs that “I used to be your rooster, now I’m just one of your cocks” which sums up what has happened to Andrea Belotti since his breakout 2016/17 season. While Torino often get mocked for not cashing in on him when his value was sky high, we should also give them credit for keeping their best player at a time that many Serie A teams sold their stars abroad.
Torino were determined to get Belotti going by surrounding him with talent this summer, but so so far their efforts backfired. Simone Zaza has only scored one goal this season in Serie A, they turned down lucrative offers from Spain for Iago Falque and also brought in Roberto Soriano who ended up at Bologna during the January window after just 5 months in Piemonte.
But despite their offensive struggles, Torino may just have enough to make it back to the Europa League. They haven’t conceded a goal in five matches and now are coming into a soft part of their schedule. While most of their competitors on the table are known for their attacks, by doubling down on their strengths, Mazzarri and his team can reward their president Cairo for his substantial financial sacrifices to raise the bar at the club.

Serie A Player Status Updates – Round 32

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Here are the latest updates on few players’ conditions heading into the next Serie A matchday.

Juventus:  Mattia De Sciglio was taken out of the Real Madrid match due to an apparent plantar fascia lesion that will require further testing. Federico Bernardeschi and Andrea Barzagli are working their way back from a knee sprain and an abdominal strain and practiced partially this week, but they will likely not be available this week.

Napoli: Mario Rui is suspended, no other absentees other than the usual one, Faouzi Ghoulam.

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Serie A Club of the Week – Round 30: Torino

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The club of the week in the last Serie A round was particularly unpredictable: Torino have looked moribund for over a month, but they gloriously bounced back on Saturday with a dominating performance on the road against Cagliari. There were three shut-out wins in the pre-Easter matchday, but they were the ones who scored more, so they get the nod over Inter and Atalanta.

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Two crucial games ahead for three winless coaches

jurci

After four games, there are still five teams that have yet to win a game: Benevento, Hellas Verona, Crotone, Sassuolo and Genoa. While the first three were expected to tough time and to be involved in the relegation race this season, the other two are a bit more surprising, but not shocking. Serie A presidents are famous for their quick trigger when it comes to sacking their coaches, so these situations need immediate turnarounds. The midweek match day could accelerates the process.

Benevento is the most desperate team as it is at the bottom of the table with no points. They fought against Sampdoria, Bologna and Torino, but they were defeated by a single goal in all three fixtures. On Sunday, they were dismantled by Napoli. Marco Baroni did a brilliant job last season, but he is a rookie in the top league and the rumours about replacing him with a more seasoned coach, such as Stefano Colantuono or Davide Ballardini, are ramping up. They will face Roma today and Crotone on Sunday, which will likely decide the fate of the manager. He will have to work some magic because some of his best players, such as Amato Ciciretti, Marco D’Alessandro and Andrea Costa are sidelined by injuries.

Despite having one point, Hellas Verona is the squad that has looked the worst so far: they have drawn against Crotone, but they were badly beaten by Napoli, Fiorentina and Hellas Verona. The schedule has not helped, but their defence has looked too vulnerable and their playing style is still undefined. Furthermore, Fabio Pecchia has engaged in a pointless skirmish with Giampaolo Pazzini and has constantly picked some players with no experience as false-nine over his leading scorer last season. Injuries have hit them hard as well, depriving them of Alessio Cerci and of a lot of depth. Despite the promotion, they were never too convincing last season in Serie B. They will square off against Sampdoria on Wednesday and Lazio on Sunday.

The closer to getting the axe appears to be Ivan Juric. He was confirmed this summer despite a tumultous season, where he was fired and then called back, but his stint could be short-lived. They had decent outings against Sassuolo, Juventus, Udinese and Lazio, but only a point to show for it. According to the rumblings, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi has already contacted Walter Mazzarri and a name of this magnitude does not help Juric’s chances of holding onto the job. They will face Chievo Verona on Wednesday and Inter on Sunday and he has to hope that the wonderkid Pietro Pellegri continues to score and that the defence tightens up.

The remaining two winless teams are Sassuolo and Crotone. Cristian Bucchi has just switched his tactic to a 3-5-2 but they were defeated by Atalanta and Juventus. They performed well against Nerazzurri, while the Old Lady is on another level. In this case, the management will likely be more patient, as they have been in the first season in Serie A with Eusebio Di Francesco. However, he needs to come up with points in the next two games, against Cagliari and Bologna. Davide Nicola will have some more leeway as well at Crotone after last year’s miraculous comeback to avoid relegation. The Sharks are still scoreless and will take on Atalanta in the midweek match and Benevento in the weekend.

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