On the eve of the 1938 World Cup Final, Benito Mussolini sent the Italian football team a telegram with the message “Vincere o morire” - Win or Die.
Whilst the Italian dictator did not mean this literally and instead wanted his team to go out and do their best, this sentiment is an adequate one ahead of Torino’s fixture against Padova on Sunday. Although the term ‘must win’ is often overused (including many times on this blog) that is the only way that Sunday’s match can be described. A victory will guarantee Torino a place in the end of season playoffs and therefore keep their dreams of a return to Serie A alive.
However, anything less than a victory would mean that Torino would be playing in the Italian second tier for a third successive year, and instead of facing glamorous fixtures against the likes of Milan, Inter and Juventus next season, Toro would be facing the not so glamorous prospect of newly promoted Gubbio, a team who were in the Eccellenza (Italian Sixth Division) as recently as 1997.
Torino and Padova head into the game with long unbeaten records, with both sides not having tasted defeat since March. However, it is Padova who have the better form, winning their last three games, whereas Toro have drawn five of their last six matches, and they know that if this game ends level, then it will be their opponents who will reach the playoffs.
Whatever happens, Sunday will be a tense affair, but victory in a game that is effectively a playoff for the playoffs, would certainly give Torino momentum for the actual post season that begins on Thursday, and in the playoffs, momentum could lead to promotion.