Sunday, 23 December 2012

Torino 2-0 Chievo

Torino ended 2012 on a high by securing only their fourth win of the season with a 2-0 victory against Chievo on Saturday afternoon.

Gianluca Sansone was preferred to Alessandro Sgrigna upfront, whilst Salvatore Masiello started in place of Danilo D'Ambrosio.

football formations
Despite a quiet start to the game, Torino took the lead after twelve minutes when Gianluca Sansone's corner was diverted past Chievo keeper Stefano Sorrentino. On first look it seemed as though Kamil Glik had got the final touch, but on the replay it was clear that it was an own goal from Chievo defender Gennaro Sardo.

That goal gave the Granata momentum, and fifteen minutes later they doubled their lead after fine play from Alessio Cerci. The former Fiorentina winger beat full back Boukary Dramé before delivering a right footed cross which fell to Alessandro Gazzi, and the hardworking midfielder found the back of the net with the aid of a deflection.

The away side came back into the game into the second half, and Jean-Francois Gillet was forced to make an outstanding save to deny Perparim Hetemaj scoring from long range. At the other end, Alessio Cerci and then Gianluca Sansone came close to adding to Toro's lead, but both of their efforts went wide of the target.

Despite being unable to add to their lead, Torino had done all of the hard work in the first half, and with many of their rivals losing - this victory moved them up to 13th place and gave both the players and fans reasons to celebrate before Christmas.

Whilst the first half of the season has certainly had its ups and downs, I'm sure that the majority of fans would have been delighted with their tally of 19pts from 18 matches, and it gives Toro an excellent chance of maintaining their Serie A status in the second half of the season. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Torino V Chievo Preview

Torino will hope to give their fans an early Christmas present when they face an important clash with Chievo on Saturday afternoon.

Despite a promising start to the season, the fact remains that Torino have only won three games all season, and they go into this fixture with a lengthy list of absentees. Mario Santana, Simone Verdi and Alen Stevanovic are all injured, so Giampiero Ventura is struggling for attacking options.

Gianluca Sansone, who is rumoured to be leaving the club when the transfer window re-opens in January, could be given one last chance to impress - although Ventura is probably more likely to pick Alessandro Sgrigna or Riccardo Meggiorini to partner Rolando Bianchi upfront.

Often mocked for their poor attendances and lack of supporters, Chievo are in fine form having won their last three games under the management of former Torino favourite Eugenio Corini. Former Milan striker Alberto Paloschi has scored four goals in his last three matches for the 'Flying Donkeys', whilst Sergio Pellissier (who began his career at Toro) scored the winner in their surprise victory against Roma last weekend.

Torino 2-1 Chievo

Monday, 17 December 2012

Genoa 1-1 Torino

Despite taking the lead for the second successive week, Torino had to settle for a point in the relegation six-pointer on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata started the game in an unfamiliar 4-2-3-1 formation (something that I suggested a week ago on Twitter) with Alessio Cerci playing as a trequartista behind lone striker Rolando Bianchi. This allowed Valter Birsa to start a match in Serie A for the first time, whilst Giuseppe Vives and Danilo D'Ambrosio also came into the team.
football formations
Genoa had the first shot at goal in the opening five minutes, but Marco Boriello's low shot was easily saved by Jean-Francois Gillet. At the other end, Alessio Cerci was inches away from giving Toro the lead, but his long distance shot whistled just past the post. Toro's attempted 4-2-3-1 experiment lasted less than ten minutes, as Mario Santana picked up an injury, and was replaced by orthodox striker Alessandro Sgrigna.

Torino were lucky not to concede when Kamil Glik's attempted clearance was charged down by Ciro Immobile, and Borriello was put through on goal - but once again he was thwarted by Gillet, who was rebuilding his confidence after making two mistakes against Milan last weekend.

The Granata took the lead after twenty minutes, when Valter Birsa delivered a fine cross from the left wing that was headed in by Rolando Bianchi, although I'm still not sure whether the Toro captain knew too much about it, as he seemed to turn his head and let the ball bounce off of it at the last second. 

However Torino's lead only lasted ten minutes, as a Genoa corner was inadvertently flicked on by Alessandro Gazzi, and that touch diverted the ball into path of Andreas Granqvist who had the simple task of heading in from three yards out.

Both teams struggled to create clear cut chances at the beginning of the second half, but Torino should have taken the lead in the closing stages. A defence-splitting pass from Alessio Cerci put Sgrigna through on goal, but his shot crashed off the crossbar. Moments later Toro had another great chance to pick up three vital points, but Giuseppe Vives' header from another Cerci assist went narrowly wide of the post.

The match finished 1-1, and although another draw is not ideal - it was also essential that Toro didn't lose to a direct relegation rival, and therefore it should be looked upon as a point gained. However, next Saturday's match against Chievo (the last game before Serie A goes on a two week winter break) is now even more crucial, and anything but a victory is almost unthinkable.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Genoa V Torino Preview

After suffering defeats in their last two matches, Torino make the short trip to Genoa on Sunday afternoon in search of a must-needed victory.

Angelo Ogbonna will be out for up to six weeks after undergoing a hernia operation in midweek, so the returning Kamil Glik should partner Guillermo Rodriguez in defence. After coming on at HT last weekend, Valter Birsa provided an assist for Rolando Bianchi in the AC Milan defeat, and if he is rewarded with a start, he will have an added incentive to impress because he is on loan from Genoa.

Genoa have been in dreadful form since Gigi Del Neri replaced Luigi Di Canio, and the veteran tactician has lost seven of his eight games in charge, including a 2-0 defeat against Pescara last time out. With the confidence of the home side being even lower than Torino's, this is a great opportunity to record a first away victory since September - although the Granata will have to be wary of Grifone strikers Ciro Immobile and Marco Borriello.

Genoa 1-1 Torino

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Maratona and Elsewhere #2 : Mutinous Rumblings

Torino 2-4 AC Milan - 9.12.12

Hardly a dull moment. A strangely circular day: we began with 'Berlusconi! Pezzo di merda!' and ended with 'Cairo! Pezzo di merda!'. In view of the fact that Berlusconi is Cairo’s former boss (look it up), I guess we were reading from the same agenda throughout the match. But this still is not a political blog, so no more Berlusconi references, no matter how tempting they might be in the week of Mario Monti’s resignation announcement.

The over-riding feeling in the Curva before kick-off was one of nervousness, and I think that was evident in the 12th man’s performance. We were a bit subdued. Clearly, we don’t expect champagne-and-caviar football from this team, but maybe we’re feeling weak after nearly half a season of cat food? Even beans on toast would be an improvement. Whether or not that anxiety transmitted itself to the players, I can’t be certain.

I was reminded, however, of a column Harry Pearson wrote in The Guardian a few years ago, reminiscing about being taken to Ayresome Park on one occasion to watch Middlesbrough when he was a kid.  His father remarked upon how lovely and green the pitch was, and a voice behind him said, 'not surprising with the amount of shit that’s been on it.'

We retained the classic 4-2-2 formation from the Derby. We showed no speed of foot or thought. We remain allergic to crossing the ball (the heading of which is Bianchi’s only strength). We gave the ball away ad nauseam, and provided our usual masterclass in passing the ball sideways.

Some notable individuals:

Jean-François Gillet has made himself a firm favourite with the fans this season, which in itself tells you the kind of season we’ve been having, but he only appeared to have one oar in the water against Milan.  Il Gattone di Liegi (the “Big Cat of Liege”) was more gateau than gattone.

Riccardo Meggiorini. Ah, Meggiorini. According to Opta, the worst passer of a ball in Serie A at the moment (61% accuracy). According to Wikipedia, once valued at €5 million. I don’t like to kick a bloke when he’s down, and hearing the whistles when he was substituted didn’t give me any pleasure, but the fact he was substituted did. He has contributed nothing this season, and I can only guess that he has Ventura’s grandchildren locked in his cellar in order to guarantee his continued selection;

Rolando Bianchi. Header. Goal. Otherwise, nothing. I think a parting of the ways in January is on the cards. Interesting, too, how we (and the stadium announcer) all shouted Santana’s name 5 times after his goal, 0 times for Bianchi after his;

Speaking of parting of the ways, I have read on and off for months that Angelo Ogbonna would be off to pastures new and more lucrative (Bayern last summer on loan, Milan or Manchester United in January for £13 – 15 million). He has been quoted recently as saying he wants to play for a “top team”, and for him the top team is Real Madrid. But injury, a few lacklustre performances of late and a refusal to give a straight answer to the Giuventus question is trying the patience of some – I even heard somebody in the Curva call him a gobbo.

As for Milan’s Stephan El Sharaawy, the current hot property of Serie A, I wondered pre-game if he would live up to his nickname Il Faraone – the Pharaoh; he is half-Egyptian – or if he would be La Faraona (the guinea fowl, thanks to his silly haircut). Well, he didn’t do a lot wrong, nor did Robinho for that matter, but we made it easy for them both to look good.

Referee? Well, we never seem to get a good one! No foul by Pazzini? No handball on Sansone’s overhead kick? Di Cesare booked for shaking Amelia’s hand after Amelia had fouled him? Seven Milan players left the playing area to celebrate each of their goals, delaying each restart; not one yellow card. No point complaining about any of that. No news there. 

And so the game petered out to a chorus of anti-Cairo chanting - 'Spend some money, you prick' being perhaps the most polite. As is customary, after the final whistle the players moved towards the Curva for what is usually a moment of mutual applause. Not this time. We waved them away with a flea in their collective ear: 'fuori le palle!' (Show us some balls!)

Dark mutterings. The “R”-word (relegation) circulated around the crowd as we filed out. 

I understand that Giampiero Ventura was taken ill after the game, but was given the all-clear (migraine, and a drop in blood pressure). He wasn’t the only one feeling a bit sick after that performance.

And there I was, thinking I’d have nothing to write about after invading enemy territory last week…

Steve is a season ticket holder who moved to Torino in 2009 after meeting a Torinese lady called Raffaella on Facebook - you can follow Steve on Twitter here.

*A Correction* - Last Week I erroneously reported that Giuventus paid €0,58 per square metre for the land for their stadium. The €0,58 figure is for land at Continassa, upon which the Agnelli family intend to build a go-karting track – just what a city on the verge of bankruptcy needs! For the stadium and adjoining shopping centre, they paid a whopping €4,20 per square metre.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Torino 2-4 AC Milan

Torino lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, as despite taking the lead, they fell to a 4-2 defeat at home to AC Milan on Sunday afternoon.

Giampiero Ventura made two changes to the side beaten by Juventus last weekend, as Valerio Di Cesare replaced the suspended Kamil Glik and Salvatore Masiello was given a start in place of Danilo D'Ambrosio.
football formations
Mario Santana had the first chance of the match, but his long range shot went well wide of the AC Milan goal. Milan also had chances to take the lead, but Stephen El-Shaarawy ballooned his shot over the bar when well placed.

The Granata did take the lead on the half hour mark as Santana capitalised on a poor back pass from Antonio Nocerino, and the Argentinean kept cool to take the ball around Marco Amelia before side-footing into an empty net. However five minutes before half time, Milan equalised when an outrageous dummy from Robinho bamboozled Valerio Di Cesare in the area, and that gave him the space needed to fire the ball into the roof of the net.

And just eight minutes after the break, Milan completed the turnaround by taking the lead as Jean-Francois Gillet gifted the away side a goal. El Shaarawy's cross from the left seemed to be going harmlessly out of play, but the Belgian keeper tried to claim it anyway - but he only succeeded in parrying the ball straight to Antonio Nocerino, who made up for his earlier error by nodding in from six yards.

The home side thought they should have had a penalty when Mario Yepes pulled Rolando Bianchi to the ground, but referee Andrea Romeo waved away the Toro skipper's appeal. And on the hour mark Milan doubled their lead, as Giampaolo Pazzini barged past Salvatore Masiello before firing a powerful shot past Gillet. Once again the Granata complained to the referee, as they felt that Pazzini had fouled the former Bari defender before the goal.

Torino's normally reliable defence seemed to be in disarray, as Milan hit the woodwork twice in quick succession, firstly from Urby Emanuelson and then from a Pazzini header. With fifteen minutes left, Gillet once again presented the Rossoneri with an early Christmas present, as he fumbled a harmless Nocerino cross to allow Stephan El-Shaarawy to score and put the result beyond doubt.

With ten minutes remaining, Torino scored a consolation goal as Rolando Bianchi ended his three month goal drought by heading in Valter Birsa's excellent cross, but that did not mask a disappointing performance from the home side. Despite a promising start to the season, this result has put Torino just one point away from the relegation zone, and their next fixture against 19th placed Genoa promises to be a tense affair.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Torino V AC Milan Preview

After last Saturday's disappointing defeat against Juventus in the Derby Della Mole, Torino face another tough fixture against a resurgent AC Milan side on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata will be without the suspended Kamil Glik so he should be replaced in central defence by Valerio Di Cesare, whereas elsewhere, Gianluca Sansone could be given a start upfront in place of Riccardo Meggiorini.

AC Milan have struggled this season since the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Thiago Silva in the summer, but after winning their last two games (including a 1-0 victory against Juve) they have moved up to 7th place. However, Massimiliano Allegri will be without a number of key players - as Riccardo Montolivo, Kevin Constant and Alexandre Pato are all injured, whereas Kevin-Prince Boateng is suspended.

Torino have not beaten Milan in their last nine attempts, with their last victory coming eleven years ago thanks to a goal from Cristiano Lucarelli.

Torino 1-1 AC Milan

'Maratona and Elsewhere' #1 : The Derby

Since Juventus moved into their new stadium last season, we have often heard only positive things about their club-owned stadium, something that is unique in Italian football. But what did English Torino fan Steve Rose make of his visit to the stadium last Saturday, as he witnessed Torino's 3-0 defeat in the Derby Della Mole.

I couldn't sleep when I eventually got home after the derby. I was disturbed, but I couldn't pinpoint what it was that disturbed me. That was around 1 o'clock on Sunday morning. Nearly a week later, I think I'm beginning to understand.

To live in this city and to wear the colours of Torino is a political statement. It's good-versus-evil. It's the honest-but-difficult way fighting against the dubious (and dubiously-managed and financed) easy option. It's not always left against right (Turin has been called ‘New Stalingrad’: but doesn't explain the election of a left-wing mayor (Fassino, who is, in fact, a Gobbo), but it's always right against wrong. And it's always better to lose than to steal.

But this is not a political blog. So….

Juventus aren't even from this city in the first place (try Venaria), and their original fan base certainly wasn't (try Puglia, Sicilia, Calabria), so the decision to drive to their new (not paid for by the club, on ground leased for 99 years at 58 cents a square metre from the aforementioned Fassino-led city council) stadium in a beaten-up old car and to hide our colours didn't impress me. 'We're from here, and we live here.'

The stadium. From this away fan's - I mean “guests” - perspective, entering it was as I'd imagine prison would be like. Helicopters overhead, lights, cameras, concrete, rusting metal (stadium in its second season).  But when you get to the top of the stairs and get a glimpse of the pitch, it does look like a football stadium - good sight lines, fans close to the playing surface. But look again. Monstrous tree-like CCTV structures in every corner of the pitch, vast PA system that appears to amplify the sounds they want you to hear (them), but not the sounds they don't want (you) - as I understand happens at Manchester City.

So pre-match we had some entertaining banter: people on both sides of the Plexiglas showing their bare arses, or filling their empty beer cups with piss and throwing them, etc.The Gobbi unveiled a vile banner mocking the dead of Superga for which their club was fined €10,000 - roughly the value of our 2099 away tickets and beer. So no fine, effectively. But when they tried to unveil a massive flag with the name of their club on it, and somebody underneath grabbed it somewhere between the U and the V and tore a 3 metre wide hole in it, it raised a smile.

As for the game, well... for the first half hour, Toro were the better team, and had Riccardo Meggiorini been a footballer of any quality and taken his one-on-one chance against Buffon, we would have taken the lead. After that, some premonitions came home to roost. I was expecting red cards and penalties anyway, but when I heard that Rocchi  (awarded Man City a penalty against Real Madrid recently that wasn't - either Serie A refs are honest but incompetent, or they are dishonest and incompetent) was to be refereeing, I knew it would be so.

And so it was: Glik sent off for a robust but FAIR challenge; a comedy penalty that Pirlo was gentlemanly enough to kick into the Curva Sud. But no more red cards or penalties after we began chanting "PENALTY! PENALTY!" or "RED CARD! RED CARD!" every time we won possession, strangely enough.

And so, with Bianchi and Meggiorini doing nothing, we effectively had a 4-2-2 formation at kick-off. 4-2-1 after the red card. Ventura said before the game that we would approach the fixture with ‘humility’ WHAT THE FUCK? No, you face your sworn enemy with everything EXCEPT humility - the 2099 of us who represented our club from the stands were certainly not humble.

Indeed, when the patronising ‘would our guests please remain in their seats after the game’ bullshit announcement came over the PA, 2099 people reminded the Gobbi that it is they who are the guests in this city, not us. After the game, as per request, we remained in the stadium. Er, no. There were 20 or so riot police with shields and batons PREVENTING us from leaving the stadium for an hour. And, as I have already said, we live here.

The match was secondary to all of this. What really happened was something like a day trip to a prison operated by Disney and McDonalds. But the prisoners seem happy. They wear striped uniforms, and stand up and shout on cue (but otherwise watch the "show" seated). I'm glad our stay was only temporary.

Mark your diary for April 28th for the next exciting instalment.

Steve is a season ticket holder who moved to Torino in 2009 after meeting a Torinese lady called Raffaella on Facebook - you can follow Steve on Twitter here.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Juventus 3-0 Torino

Torino's seventeen year wait for a Derby della Mole victory will continue after they were beaten 3-0 by Juventus on Saturday night, but the turning point was undoubtedly Kamil Glik's 36th minute red card.

Somewhat surprisingly Giampiero Ventura started the game with the same team that gained a point against Fiorentina six days ago, a bold move as that 4-2-4 line up included strikers Riccardo Meggiorini and Rolando Bianchi, as well as wingers Alessio Cerci and Mario Santana.

football formations
The Granata started brightly, and Mario Santana cut in on his right foot to test Gianluigi Buffon with a low shot, but the experienced goalkeeper dealt with the shot easily. The away side were continuing to take the game to the league leaders, and after capitalising on a mistake by Leonardo Bonucci, Riccardo Meggiorini should have given Toro the lead, but his shot went wide of the far post.

That scare seemed to wake La Vecchia Signora up, and young midfielder Paul Pogba tested Jean-Francois Gillet with a volley from 25 yards out, which was initially parried by the Belgian stopper before being cleared for a corner by Kamil Glik. Pogba again tried his luck from distance minutes later, but this time Gillet was able to tip the ball over the bar with little difficulty.

The turning point arose on 36 minutes when Polish defender Kamil Glik was shown a straight red card by referee Gianluca Rocchi for a foul on Emanuele Giaccherini. Whilst Glik did get the ball, the challenge was somewhat reckless, and was also unnecessary as the ball was on the half way line. 

If it was a tough ask to get anything from this game with eleven men, it was almost impossible after being reduced to ten - and Riccardo Meggiorini was sacrificed in order for centre back Valerio Di Cesare to come on. Five minutes before half time Juventus were awarded a penalty after Migjen Basha slipped and inadvertently upended the impressive Pogba . 

However, the pressure of the derby seemed to get to the usually reliable Andrea Pirlo, and he blasted the penalty over the bar  - and somehow Torino got to the half time break with the scores level at 0-0.

Juventus should have taken the lead immediately after the restart, when Mirko Vucinic's cross was flicked on by substitute Niklas Bendtner, but somehow Pogba put his header over the bar. However with just over thirty minutes to go, the bianconeri finally took the lead, as two Turin-born players combined when Claudio Marchisio met Sebastian Giovinco's fine cross to plant a diving header past the helpless Gillet.

The home side doubled their lead ten minutes later, when Giovinco got on the score sheet himself as he fired a low shot into the far corner from just inside the area. Juve had chances to extend their lead as Paul Pogba once again continued his individual battle with Jean-Francois Gillet, and once again the Torino goalkeeper prevailed as he made another fine save to deny the Frenchman. 

With six minutes remaining Juventus scored once again, as Vucinic chested the ball back to Marchisio who scored his second goal of the night with a powerful left footed shot into the far corner, and once again Gillet had no chance of saving it. The Granata had half chances to end their decade wait for a Derby della Mole goal, but they will now have to wait until the end of April to try and end that unwanted statistic as the game ended 3-0.

As Giampiero Ventura stated in his post match interview, the game was effectively finished as a contest after Kamil Glik's first half red card - although Toro fans may wonder what would have happened had he not been dismissed, as the Granata had certainly matched their opponents up until that point. However, it wasn't to be, and Torino must quickly forget about this game and focus on the next one - at home to a resurgent AC Milan next Sunday afternoon.

Forza Torino

Friday, 30 November 2012

Juventus V Torino 'Derby della Mole' Preview

It is finally here. The biggest game of the season so far as Torino make their shortest trip of the season - just 12km - to face their most hated rivals Juventus on Saturday evening.

In the build up for this match, much has been made of the fact that this derby is perhaps more important for Torino fans than their Juventus counterparts, many of whom probably weren't even born the last time they lost to the Granata (for the record it was April 9th 1995). Whilst this game is probably more important for Torino, Juventus are the team that has it all to lose - they are expected to win - and this should allow Torino a certain amount of freedom to express themselves, and not just be content to 'park the bus'.

Now I'm not suggesting that Giampiero Ventura sends his team out to attack with reckless abandon, but Torino have shown on many occasions this season that they are defensively well organised, and as the 5-1 victory at Atalanta highlighted, they are able to counter attack with both pace and intelligence. Therefore, if Toro are to get anything from this match, it is essential that they continue to do these three things, and perhaps most importantly, that they do not get overawed by the occasion - which admittedly may be difficult given the lack of Derby della Mole experience within the squad.

Another key factor in this match will be the battle of the 'registas' - Andrea Pirlo vs...... well Torino don't actually have a deep lying play maker. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that Toro do not allow Pirlo to dominate the midfield with his excellent array of long and short passing. When Juventus' long unbeaten record was finally broken by Inter at the beginning of the month, they were able to press the veteran midfielder extremely effectively, and with two high energy defensive midfielders - Alessandro Gazzi and Migjen Basha - Torino will hopefully be able to emulate Inter, and nullify the obvious threat of 'The Bearded Genius'.

Juventus are almost certain to dominate the majority of statistics, but the only one that will matter at the end of ninety minutes will be the final score - and in order to keep La Vecchia Signora from scoring, Jean-Francois Gillet will have to to be at his very best. The Belgian goalkeeper has had a great season since signing for Torino in the summer, and he will have to be in fine form on Saturday evening for Torino to get a result. Former Torino goalkeepers Stefano Sorrentino and Federico Marchetti have both performed miracles against the Bianconeri so far this season, and Gillet certainly has the ability to do the same.

Juve face a difficult game against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, as they need at least a point in order to guarantee qualification from their Champions League group. Now although a draw would be enough to send both teams through, the Ukrainian champions will certainly be wary of looking to 'play for a draw' - especially after incurring the wrath of the footballing world after Luiz Adriano's controversial goal against Nordsjaelland a fortnight ago. Therefore, Juventus will certainly have one eye on that fixture, and whilst I don't expect Antonio Conte to rest too many of his regular starting eleven, those players who do play may foolishly attempt to conserve energy for that fixture - which Torino could capitalise on. Key players Arturo Vidal and Giorgio Chiellini have recovered from injuries to be included in the Juventus squad, although Martin Caceres misses out.

Torino have almost a fully fit squad to choose from, and Giampiero Ventura has included a hefty 23 players in the travelling party for this match. I would expect Torino to line up in a 4-2-4 formation whilst in possession, that reverts to a 4-3-3 when out of possession. The key player for this potential plan is veteran midfielder and Joey Barton look-alike Giuseppe Vives, who despite naturally being a central midfielder, has featured on the left side of midfield a number of times in his Torino career.

Possible Starting Elevens

Juventus (3-5-2) : Buffon; Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli; Giaccherini, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Lichtsteiner; Giovinco, Vucinic

Torino (4-2-4) : Gillet; Darmian, Glik, Ogbonna, D'Ambrosio; Basha, Gazzi, Vives, Cerci; Bianchi, Meggiorini (Sgrigna)


Now on my normal match previews this is where I would provide a score prediction for the upcoming match. However on this occasion, as a superstitious person, I can't make a prediction for the derby, just in case my guess somehow jinxed the final outcome (stupid I know). However, as long as the team gives it absolutely everything, and leaves it all out there on the field - then whatever happens come the final whistle, I will still be proud to be a Torino fan. One stat that does not make for pleasant reading is the fact that Torino haven't even scored a goal against Juventus in over a decade (February 2002), and that certainly needs to be rectified as soon as possible - hopefully by this time tomorrow.

Forza Torino!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Siena 2-0 Torino

A second string Torino side crashed out of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday evening after a 2-0 defeat against Siena.

With Giampiero Ventura fully concentrated on this weekend's Turin derby, the veteran coach made ten changes from the side that drew with Fiorentina - with only Matteo Darmian keeping his place in the team.
football formations
Although Torino were using this game as an opportunity to rest a number of their first choice squad, a number of players were eager to impress ahead of the derby. Young goalkeeper Lys Gomis made two good saves to deny Siena taking a first half lead, whilst at the other end, Alen Stevanovic twice had good opportunities to give Torino the lead.

One minute after half time, Siena took the lead as a cross from former Toro player Alessandro Rosina was inadvertantly deflected by Guillermo Rodriguez into the path of Brazilian striker Zé Eduardo who literally could not miss from two yards out. Without their normal star names, Torino struggled to create chances and with thirteen minutes remaining Siena put the result beyond doubt as Rosina once again turned provider to give Reginaldo the simple task of tapping in from six yards. 

In the closing stages Torino had two half-chances to get on the score sheet as Sergiu Suciu and then Valerio Di Cesare came close to scoring a consolation goal - but Toro couldn't find a breakthrough and were eliminated.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Siena V Torino Preview (Coppa Italia)

Ahead of Torino's biggest game of the season against Juventus on Saturday evening, Torino have an unwanted distraction to deal with beforehand - a Coppa Italia clash with Siena on Wednesday evening.

Giampiero Ventura has wisely decided to rest the majority of his first team squad for this match, although fringe players such as Sergiu Suciu, Simone Verdi and Valerio Di Cesare should get a much needed run out. Unfortunately talented youngsters Marko Bakic and Abou Diop have picked up injuries in training, so Torino fans will have to wait a bit longer to see them in action.

With Siena's primary focus being to avoid relegation, they may also choose to rest a number of first team players - so this game could be a bit more exciting than the 0-0 draw these two teams played out on the opening day of the season.

Siena 2-1 Torino

Monday, 26 November 2012

Torino 2-2 Fiorentina

Torino took the lead twice against high-flying Fiorentina, but the Viola fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon.

Giampiero Ventura made just the one change from the team that were beaten by Roma on Monday, as Riccardo Meggiorini replaced Alessandro Sgrigna upfront.
 football formations
The only significant incident in the opening thirty minutes was a nasty clash of heads between Torino defender Kamil Glik and Fiorentina striker Luca Toni which led to both players being substituted. Five minutes before half time, Torino opened the scoring with their first shot on goal, as two former Fiorentina players combined when Mario Santana delivered a perfect cross to find an unmarked Alessio Cerci who scored his first goal for the club.

Fiorentina, who had won their previous five matches, had a chance to equalise before the break, but Mati Fernandez's shot went wide of the post. And Torino could have doubled their lead with the last kick of the half when Mario Santana went on a slaloming run past four Viola defenders, before his shot was saved by Emiliano Viviano - and on reflection, he probably should have played in Alessio Cerci who was once again unmarked.

Alessio Cerci was continuing to create problems against his former side, and after good work down the right wing, he cut in with his left foot and forced Viviano into making another save. However Fiorentina were not rolling over, and in quick succession Gonzalo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic both came close to scoring an equaliser.

With fifteen minutes remaining, Fiorentina did get back on level terms, as for the second game in succession Danilo D'Ambrosio conceded a controversial penalty. On this occasion there did seem to be slight contact with Juan Cuadrado, but the Colombian certainly did make the most of it. Centre back Rodriguez made amends for his missed chance minutes earlier, as he sent Gillet the wrong way to make it 1-1. 

Incredibly however, Torino regained the lead less than two minutes later, as a low cross from substitute Valter Birsa evaded everybody and went straight into the bottom corner. It initially looked as though fellow substitute Alen Stevanovic had made some contact on the ball, and although he didn't - he did seem to distract Viviano away from the ball.

That goal looked as though it may be enough for all three points, but in the closing stages Fiorentina fought back once again as Mounir El Hamdaoui collected Cuadrado's pass and fired a fierce shot into the bottom corner.

The Granata will be disappointed by the fact that they let the lead slip on two occasions, but against an in-form Fiorentina side, a point is certainly a respectable result. Torino are back in action on Wednesday evening in the Coppa Italia, which will provide an unnecessary distraction ahead of the biggest game of the season so far - the derby against Juventus - on Saturday night.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Torino V Fiorentina Preview

Torino face high-flying Fiorentina on Sunday afternoon as they look to return to winning ways after losing at Roma last time out.

Alen Stevanovic and Riccardo Meggiorini have both returned to the squad after being absent for the trip to the capital, whilst for the second game in a row, Alessio Cerci will come up against a former team. Rolando Bianchi has not scored for seven games and will be looking to end that mini goal drought, whilst Gianluca Sansone could replace Alessandro Sgrigna upfront.

Fiorentina have been in great from this season and have won their last five Serie A games, including convincing victories over Cagliari, AC Milan and Atalanta in recent weeks. However, the Viola will be without star striker Stevan Jovetić who is injured, whilst Chilean midfielder David Pizarro is also out.

Torino 1-1 Fiorentina

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Roma 2-0 Torino

Torino's unbeaten away record ended last night as they fell to a controversial 2-0 defeat against AS Roma after goals from Pablo Osvaldo and Miralem Pjanić.

Giampiero Ventura made three changes from the team that beat Bologna last week, as Angelo Ogbonna, Mario Santana and Alessandro Sgrigna came into the starting eleven.
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Zdeněk Zeman set his team out in his typical ultra attacking style (as illustrated by this photo) and striker Pablo Osvaldo had two early chances to give his side the lead, but on both occasions the Argentine-born Italy international missed the target.

Roma were continuing to create chances, but they were failing to test Torino keeper Jean-Francois Gillet, and captain Francesco Totti was also guilty of shooting wide when well placed. As expected Torino were playing on the counter attack, and had an opportunity when former Roma player Alessio Cerci outpaced Michael Bradley and provided a cut-back for Rolando Bianchi, but his shot was saved by Mauro Goicoechea.

The home side struggled to create chances in the second half as the Torino defence held firm, with Polish international Kamil Glik particularly impressive in denying the Giallorossi. However, after seventy minutes the turning point arose when the home side were awarded a penalty in controversial circumstances.

Initially referee Marco Guida turned down Roma's appeals for a penalty after substitute Marquinho went down after a challenge by Danilo D'Ambrosio. That seemed to be the right decision as there was minimal if any contact at all - but incredibly, after Roma appealed to the official behind the goal, the referee changed his mind and awarded the home side a penalty. Pablo Osvaldo stepped up to take the spot-kick, and he calmly waited for Gillet to dive before side footing the ball in the opposite corner.

Simone Verdi and Abou Diop came on to make rare appearances as Torino searched for an equaliser, but with five minutes remaining Roma put the result beyond any doubt as Miralem Pjanić's low shot deflected off Alessandro Gazzi and into the net.

This defeat ended Torino's run of impressive results away from home, and although they were a little wasteful in the final third - until the controversial award of a penalty, the Granata looked to be on track for a point at the very least. With difficult games against Fiorentina and Juventus in the next fortnight, Toro will have to put in impressive performances in order to gain any points.

Forza Torino

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Roma V Torino Preview

Torino will be looking to keep their unbeaten away record intact when they travel to the capital to face Zdeněk Zeman's Roma on Monday night.

Angelo Ogbonna has recovered from injury and should return to the starting eleven, most likely at the expense of Uruguayan defender Guillermo Rodriguez who has impressed whilst deputising for the Italy international. Gianluca Sansone should keep his place up front after impressing in recent weeks, but veteran midfielder Giuseppe Vives misses out through illness. Since arriving from Fiorentina in the summer, Alessio Cerci has been one of Torino's star performers this season, and he will be keen to impress against the side he only made thirteen appearances for in five seasons.

Roma have been very unpredictable this season, and in their last five games they have won 4-1 and 4-2, but they have also lost 3-2 on three occasions - most notably in the Rome derby last weekend. After being sent off in that game, Daniele De Rossi is suspended for this fixture, as are Nicolas Burdisso and Panagiotis Tachtsidis. Argentine winger Erik Lamela has flourished under Zeman's 4-3-3 formation, and having scored in Roma's last six matches, the Torino defence will have to keep the former River Plate man quiet.

Roma 2-2 Torino

Monday, 12 November 2012

Torino 1-0 Bologna

Torino finally secured their second home win of the season with a deserved 1-0 victory over Bologna on Sunday afternoon.

Giuseppe Vives was once again preferred to Mario Santana in midfield, as his inclusion enabled the Granata to switch to a 4-3-3 when out of possession. Gianluca Sansone was also rewarded for his injury time equaliser against Napoli, as he partnered Rolando Bianchi upfront.

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The away side had the first opportunity of the game, but former West Ham player Alessandro Diamanti saw his shot go wide of the post. Alessio Cerci was causing the Bologna defence a number of problems, and his left footed cross picked out Gianluca Sansone who back-heeled the ball towards goal, but was denied by Federico Agliardi. 

Sansone was continuing to impress upfront, and a nice one-two with Rolando Bianchi put the Torino captain through on goal, but he blazed his shot over the bar. Giampiero Ventura made an attacking switch at half time as Giuseppe Vives was replaced by Mario Santana, but it was Gianluca Sansone who once again came closest to opening the scoring - this time from a 30 yard free kick that was turned over the bar by Agliardi.

And the Granata finally took a deserved lead from the resulting corner, as Santana's deep cross was headed in by Danilo D'Ambrosio, who had been given the captain's armband only minutes before following Rolando Bianchi's substitution.

Alessandro Diamanti continued to be a threat for the away side, and once again he tried his luck from distance, but thankfully for Torino his shot went narrowly wide. Torino almost doubled their lead in extraordinary fashion in the closing stages, but substitute Riccardo Meggiorini saw his 30 yard dipping volley saved by Agliardi.

Toro held on for only their third victory of the season, and with tough games against Roma, Fiorentina, Juventus and Milan on the horizon, this was certainly a crucial three points.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Torino V Bologna Preview

Torino will be looking to end their miserable home record when they face struggling Bologna on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata have lost their last two home matches, and have not won at the Stadio Olimpico since beating Pescara on September 1st. However, Angelo Ogbonna is back in contention after recovering from injury, although Giampiero Ventura may choose not to risk the defender because he has not played at all in over a month.

After impressing in the draw against Napoli, Mario Santana and Gianluca Sansone could be rewarded with starting positions - whilst Rolando Bianchi will be looking to end his mini goal drought which has now stretched to five matches.

Bologna have also struggled to win in recent weeks, although they did end a run of four consecutive defeats with a draw against Udinese last time out. The rossoblù are currently in the relegation zone, but with players of the quality of Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino in their ranks, they will back themselves to get out of trouble before the end of the season.

Torino 2-1 Bologna

Monday, 5 November 2012

Napoli 1-1 Torino

Football really can be a strange game, as Gianluca Sansone - the villain after being sent off last weekend against Parma, scored an injury time equaliser to earn Torino a deserved point at the San Paulo on Sunday afternoon.

Toro only made two changes from the side that earned a creditable 1-1 draw at Lazio on Wednesday as Migjen Basha and Giuseppe Vives replaced Matteo Brighi and Mario Santana.
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However, the Granata made the worst possible start and were behind after only six minutes when the returning Edinson Cavani gave the home side the lead. The Toro defence switched off as Hugo Campagnaro's long throw found an unmarked Marek Hamsik, and his shot was parried straight to the Uruguayan striker by the usually reliable Jean-Francois Gillet.

Toro reacted well after going behind, and came very close to scoring an equaliser ten minutes later as Alessio Cerci's cross found Rolando Bianchi, but his bullet header was well saved by Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis. Napoli could have doubled their lead when Goran Pandev's long range shot was deflected by Kamil Glik, but luckily for Toro, the ball went wide of the post.

On the stroke of half time, Alessandro Gazzi made a crucial last-ditch tackle to prevent former Torino player Blerim Dzemaili shooting from long range, however he was injured whilst making the challenge and had to be replaced by Matteo Brighi at the break.

With Napoli aware of Torino's counter attacking threat, they allowed Torino to dominate possession, and this looked to be a dangerous tactic as the Granata grew in confidence. A quickly taken free kick from Giuseppe Vives almost gave Alessandro Sgrigna a chance to equalise, but the experienced striker failed to make contact with the ball. 

The away side continued to create half-chances, but when Alessio Cerci blazed over the bar and substitute Mario Santana's long range shot was straight at De Sanctis, it looked as though they wouldn't get the point their second half play had merited.

And Napoli should have put the result beyond any doubt moments later when Lorenzo Insigne robbed the ball from Matteo Darmian and put Marek Hamsik through on goal, but after rounding Gillet, the Slovakian midfielder could only hit the post from a difficult angle.

And then in injury time, Napoli were punished for that miss as a dreadful back pass from substitute Salvatore Aronica put Gianluca Sansone through on goal - and he was able to round De Sanctis and calmly pass the ball into the net to earn Toro a deserved point.

This impressive result increased Torino's unbeaten record away from home to six matches, but after losing their last two home matches - Torino will hope to improve their form at the Stadio Olimpico, starting next Sunday against Bologna.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Napoli V Torino Preview

Torino will travel to Naples on Sunday afternoon looking to continue their fine away form, despite the fact they didn't win a game in the whole month of October.

The Granata have won one and drew four of their five away games this season, although the trip to the Stadio San Paulo promises to be a tough one, as Napoli have won all five of their home games this season.

Angelo Ogbonna could be on the bench for this game but is not expected to start, so Kamil Glik and the impressive Guillermo Rodriguez should keep their places in defence. Rolando Bianchi should also keep his place upfront, despite the fact that the striker (who has been linked with a move to Napoli) has not scored since scoring his 70th goal for the club against Atalanta back in September.

Napoli had made an impressive start to the season, and looked to be serious scudetto challengers, but they have now lost successive away games against Juventus and Atalanta and have moved down to third place. However, it is at home where they have really impressed - and with Edinson Cavani expected to recover from injury for this game, the Torino defence will have to wary of the Uruguayan striker.

Napoli 3-1 Torino

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Lazio 1-1 Torino

Torino's unbeaten run away from home stretched to five matches as they picked up a creditable 1-1 draw at Lazio on Wednesday night.

As expected, Rolando Bianchi and Alessio Cerci both came into the starting eleven after being rested against Parma, whilst Mario Santana came into the team after recovering from injury.

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After the disappointing loss at home to Parma at the weekend, the Granata were keen to make a bright start, and they did exactly that by taking the lead within ten minutes. Alessandro Sgrigna's corner was exquisitely headed in by Kamil Glik, as the Polish international scored his first league goal of the season.

After recovering from the shock of going behind, the home side reacted well - as both Antonio Candreva and then Stefano Mauri drilled shots wide of the post. Former Juventus midfielder Candreva once again came close to equalising as he evaded Alessandro Gazzi, but his near post shot was tipped over by Jean-Francois Gillet.

On the stroke of half time, Torino almost doubled their lead as a swift counter-attack orchestrated by Danilo D'Ambrosio's interception put Alessio Cerci through on goal, however the ball got caught under his feet and his shot was twice blocked by the Lazio defence.

Toro started the second half well, and should have doubled their lead when Alessandro Sgrigna's cross found an unmarked Mario Santana, but the Argentinean's tame header was easily saved by Albano Bizzarri. However, just before the hour mark, the Granata were punished for not taking their chances as the home side finally scored an equaliser.

The outstanding Stefano Mauri received Candreva's pass, then took a touch before delivering a fierce left footed shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards out. The Biancocelesti almost took the lead moments later as Tommaso Rocchi beat the offside trap, but after doing the hard part of taking the ball around Gillet, his shot hit the side netting.

Once again Lazio skipper Rocchi came close to scoring a undeserved winner for the home side, but this time he was denied by an outstanding block from Uruguayan defender Guillermo Rodriguez, who was doing a fine job of deputising for the injured Angelo Ogbonna.

In the end, Torino held on for a deserved point although they may even be slightly disappointed not take all three. With another tough away game on Sunday against Napoli, the Granata will certainly be satisfied if their unbeaten away record continues until next week.

Forza Torino

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Lazio V Torino Preview

Torino will look to end a run of three matches without a victory as they travel to Rome to face Lazio on Wednesday night.

The Granata will once again be without Angelo Ogbonna who is not yet ready to play 90 minutes, whilst experienced midfielder Giuseppe Vives will also miss out. However, Mario Santana has recovered from his injury and will return to the squad, whilst fellow winger Valter Birsa could start after making a brief substitute appearance against Parma.

Lazio have made a bright start to the season and are currently in 4th place, despite losing 2-0 at Fiorentina on Sunday. Coach Vladimir Petkovic will be forced into making a number of changes from that match, as both Cristian Ledesma and Hernanes are injured, whilst Ederson and former Torino primavera goalkeeper Federico Marchetti are both injured.

Whilst Torino are desperate for three points, their record against Lazio is not a particular good one - with just four victories in the last twenty years. Toro's last victory against the Biancocelesti was in January 2002, with Cristiano Lucarelli scoring the only goal.

Lazio 2-1 Torino

Monday, 29 October 2012

Torino 1-3 Parma

Torino's poor home form continued as they were defeated 3-1 by Parma on Sunday afternoon, although they were forced to play most of the second half with ten men after Gianluca Sansone's controversial red card.

Matteo Darmian and Kamil Glik returned to the Toro defence, although Giampiero Ventura surprised many by leaving both Rolando Bianchi and Alessio Cerci on the bench. Gianluca Sansone was given a rare start, whilst Riccardo Meggiorini was given the central striker role.

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And those changes looked as though they may finally solve Torino's home goalscoring problems in the early stages, as the Granata created three great chances in the opening ten minutes. Firstly a great through ball by Alen Stevanovic put full back Matteo Darmian through on goal, but his left footed shot hit the side netting.

Two minutes later, an ambitious volley from Riccardo Meggiorini almost caught out Parma's second choice keeper Nicola Pavarini, but the veteran reacted well to deny the former Bari striker. Torino should have taken the lead via Gianluca Sansone, but he somehow headed Stevanovic's cross over the bar.

After surviving the initial Granata onslaught, Parma came back into the game and former Juventus striker Amauri somehow blazed over the bar after excellent play by Jonathan Biabiany.

Toro began the second half in similar fashion to which they started the first, and once again Gianluca Sansone came close to opening his account for the club, but he was denied by Pavarini. However, the match turned on the 53rd minute when Torino were reduced to ten men after the lively Sansone received a second yellow card for simulation.

Whilst Gabriel Paletta's challenge on the former Sassuolo striker was probably not worthy of a penalty, there was certainly contact between the two players.Therefore the decision to send Sansone off (who didn't even appeal for a spot kick) was an extremely harsh decision by referee Piero Giacomelli.

Torino's ten men held out for twenty minutes, but Parma finally got the breakthrough after substitute Nicola Sansone (no relation) fired a fierce left footed shot past Jean-Francois Gillet. And with Toro still recovering from that goal, Parma doubled their lead one minute later when Amauri headed home an inch-perfect cross from Marco Marchionni.

The away side still had time to score a third goal as some hesitant defending from the normally reliable Matteo Darmian allowed Biabiany to cross for Aleandro Rosi to tap home from close range. With the last kick of the game, Torino did get a consolation goal as substitutes Alessio Cerci and Migen Basha combined to allow the latter to volley home from six yards - Toro's first goal at the Stadio Olimpico for 388 minutes.

This result was certainly a disappointment as Torino's poor home form continues, but the match was undoubtedly changed by the referee's controversial decision to dismiss Gianluca Sansone with the score at 0-0. With two difficult away games on the horizon (against Lazio and Napoli) the Granata could find themselves in the relegation zone this time next week, almost unthinkable after their bright start.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Torino V Parma Preview

Having gone over 300 minutes without scoring a goal in front of their own fans, Torino will be hoping to break that rather unwanted record against Parma on Sunday afternoon.

Angelo Ogbonna will once again miss this game through injury, so Guillermo Rodriguez and Valerio Di Cesare - the partnership that kept a clean sheet against Palermo could keep their places. Matteo Darmian is back from suspension, so he should come in at right back, and that could see Danilo D'Ambrosio move over to left back.

With Torino struggling to score goals, coach Giampiero Ventura may finally turn to Gianluca Sansone who has rarely been given an opportunity since signing from Sassuolo in the summer.

Opponents Parma have been unable to replicate their fantastic home form on the road this season, and have only picked up one point from their four away games. Former Juventus striker Amauri scored twice in their last game to see off Sampdoria, but their goalkeeper Antonio Mirante received his fourth booking of the season in that match, so he misses out through suspension.

The last time these two sides met in 2008 was an entertaining encounter, as Toro fought back from 4-1 down to draw 4-4, with Roberto Stellone scoring twice. Although a repeat of that scoreline tomorrow would be extremely unlikely, it would certainly rectify Torino's goalscoring problems.

Torino 2-1 Parma

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Palermo 0-0 Torino

Torino continued their unbeaten run away from the Stadio Olimpico, as they recorded their third goalless draw of the season at Palermo on Sunday afternoon.

The Granata lined up with an unfamiliar back four, as Matteo Darmian was suspended, Angelo Ogbonna was injured, and Kamil Glik was rested having been on international duty in mid week. That meant Uruguayan centre back Guillermo Rodríguez came in to make his debut, whilst Giuseppe Vives was brought in to reinforce the midfield.
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The home side dominated the early exchanges, and Jean-Francois Gillet made two good saves to deny Slovenian midfielder Jasmin Kurtic from distance. Palermo continued to attempt long range shots, firstly from Edgar Barreto, and then from Josip Illicic's free kick, but once again the Belgian keeper produced two magnificent saves to stop the Rosanero taking the lead.

Just before half time, Torino almost took the lead themselves as good work from Riccardo Meggiorini and Alessandro Gazzi put Rolando Bianchi through on goal, but the Torino captain was denied by Samir Ujkani. At the other end, Palermo continued to create chances, and after Illicic's excellent through ball, Swiss full back Michel Morganella was one on one with Gillet, but once again the Belgian came out on top.

Torino were more positive in the second half, and had a great chance to open the scoring, but unfortunately Riccardo Meggiorini rushed his shot, and provided Ujkani with a simple save. With just three minutes of normal time remaining, Josip Illicic had an excellent opportunity to gain all three points for his team, but his shot was wildly off target.

In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, as a combination of poor finishing and outstanding goalkeeping meant that the game stayed goalless. However, Torino's lack of goals continues to be a worry, as they have only scored nine goals all season, five of which were in the same game against Atalanta.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Palermo V Torino Preview

Torino return to league action on Sunday after an enforced two week break due to the international fixtures, and will make the long journey south to take on Palermo.

Argentinean winger Mario Santana was injured in the defeat against Cagliari, however fellow winger Valter Birsa has recovered from his injury and is available to make his debut. Defender Kamil Glik had a very eventful international break, as he scored Poland's equaliser against England - and after conceding two penalties in recent weeks, that goal will hopefully give him a much-needed confidence boost.

Palermo's notoriously impatient president Maurizio Zamparini has already made one managerial change this season as Giuseppe Sannino was sacked in favour of the more experienced Gian Piero Gasperini. That change in coach has made an immediate impact in terms of results, as the Rosanero have gained four points from his two games in charge, including an impressive 4-1 win against Chievo.

Striker Abel Hernández was injured on international duty with Uruguay and is out long term, however captain Fabrizio Miccoli is back in favour and should start upfront. Despite being 33, Miccoli scored a hat-trick in the aforementioned victory over Chievo, thus showing that his immense talent is still there.

Palermo 2-1 Torino

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Torino's 'Cult Heroes' #3 : Pinga

André Luciano da Silva - more commonly known by the nickname Pinga, arrived from the unfortunately named Brazilian club Juventus SP in 1999.

The skillful attacking midfielder made only seven appearances in his debut season, but showed his quality by scoring a brace against AC Milan in April 2000. However, he was unable to prevent Torino being relegated to Serie B at the end of that campaign.

The Granata bounced back to Serie A at the first attempt the following season, and Pinga contributed by scoring twice in twenty-two games. In the 2001-02 season, Torino achieved an impressive 11th place finish, but the Brazilian only made five appearances and was therefore loaned to Siena for two seasons in order to play regularly.

After helping Siena gain promotion to Serie A, Pinga returned to recently relegated Torino ahead of the 2003-04 season with the aim of helping the team make an immediate return to the top flight. It was during this season that the playmaker began to wear a Granata coloured bandana during matches, and he also seemed to have put on a few more pounds in his stint away from the club.
However, despite the larger waistline, he managed to enjoy his most successful season in a Torino shirt by scoring six times in an otherwise unforgettable season as Toro finished in mid-table. The following season, with the bandana now discarded (apparently for being unlucky), Pinga improved on his goal tally once again by scoring nine times (including a goal in the Playoff semi-final against Ascoli) to help Toro finally gain promotion to the top flight.
However, as we know, Torino were denied promotion to Serie A due to their financial problems, and after all their contracted players were released following bankruptcy, Pinga moved on to Treviso. A move back to Brazil with Internacional followed, and despite only being 31, he has spent the last four seasons in the United Arab Emirates, and currently plies his trade with Al Dhafra.

Grazie Pinga.

If you have any suggestions of any players who should appear in future editions of 'Cult Heroes' you can contact me via the comments section or on Twitter.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Torino 0-1 Cagliari

Torino succumbed to their second defeat of the season as they were beaten 1-0 by bottom of the table Cagliari on Sunday afternoon.

The home side made just the one change from the team that thrashed Atalanta in their last outing, as Alen Stevanovic replaced Mario Santana in midfield.
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Captain Rolando Bianchi had Torino's first half chance of the match, as he attempted an ambitious header from Matteo Darmian's cross, but Cagliari keeper Michael Agazzi stopped it with ease.

At the other end, Cagliari, who were keen to impress new management team Ivo Pulga and Diego Lopez, came close to opening the scoring, but Toro were thankful that Jean Francois Gillet was able to tip Fernando Avelar's shot over the bar.

The second half began with Cagliari continuing to look threatening and Radja Nainggolan cleverly evaded Angelo Ogbonna, before drilling his shot wide of Gillet's goal. And with fifteen minutes remaining, the away side were given the opportunity to take the lead after Kamil Glik was harshly adjudged to have handled Davide Astori's volley inside the area, and striker Nenê smashed home the resulting penalty.

The Isolani then came close to doubling their lead, as Victor Ibarbo was put through on goal - but the Colombian striker was denied by the post. That chance seemed to give Torino the wake up call they needed, and when Rolando Bianchi headed home a Giuseppe Vives free kick, it seemed as though the home side had rescued a point - but the goal was disallowed because of a marginal offside.

In the closing stages, substitute Gianluca Sansone delivered a teasing cross that found captain Rolando Bianchi once again, but his improvised shot at goal went just wide of the post, and Cagliari held on for their first win of the season. 

Whilst this was undoubtedly a disappointing result, no Granata fan can be that surprised that they followed up an impressive 5-1 away victory with a home defeat against a team who were bottom of the league - because that's just what Toro do.

Forza Torino

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Torino V Cagliari Preview

After last Sunday's incredible 5-1 win at Atalanta, Torino face bottom of the table Cagliari in search of a second consecutive victory.

Former Cagliari player Alessandro Agostini has been included in the squad for the first time, although Danilo D'Ambrosio is expected to keep his place at left back. After coming off the bench to score against Atalanta, Alen Stevanovic could replace Mario Santana in midfield, but that may be the only change from the team that won so impressively last weekend.

Cagliari have had a difficult start to the season and are bottom of the table with just two points from their six matches. Former Torino midfielder Massimo Ficcadenti was sacked as coach after the defeat by Pescara, and has been replaced by the inexperienced duo Ivo Pulga and Diego Lopez.

Torino 1-0 Cagliari

Monday, 1 October 2012

Atalanta 1-5 Torino

Torino won their first away game of the season with a sensational 5-1 victory at Atalanta on Sunday afternoon.

After starting on the bench in midweek against Udinese, Rolando Bianchi came back into the starting eleven, as did winger Alessio Cerci who was also rested for that match.
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The home side attacked from the outset, and it was very evident that this match would be an entertaining affair - a stark contrast to Torino's last two away games.

Atalanta came close to taking the lead when Luca Cigarini's free kick hit the crossbar, but just before the half hour mark they did open the scoring when Torino failed to clear a corner and when the ball was played back into the area, German Denis narrowly beat the offside trap to slide the ball past Jean-Francois Gillet.

That goal forced Torino to attack, and their equaliser was quite literally "handed" to them ten minutes later. The away side were awarded a penalty when Danilo D'Ambrosio's cross hit the arm of Giacomo Bonaventura, and captain Rolando Bianchi sent goalkeeper Andrea Consigli the wrong way with his spot kick to level things up.

On the stroke of half time, German Denis was fouled on the edge of the area, as once again the Toro defence struggled to cope with the powerful Argentinean striker. Denis picked himself up to take the resulting free kick, but once again the ball cannoned off the crossbar - perhaps early proof that Torino's luck was beginning to change, as the Granata had hit the woodwork on three occasions themselves in their previous match.

At the beginning of the second half, Toro had to rely on Jean Francois Gillet to keep the scores level, as the Belgian keeper first denied Federico Peluso, and then Bonaventura in quick succession. And those saves became even more important, as moments later the Granata took the lead, when Alessio Cerci's corner was headed in by an outstanding diving header from Alessandro Gazzi.

Just four minutes later Torino had a third goal and effectively ended the match as a contest, when Alessio Cerci delivered a perfect cross to find substitute Alen Stevanovic who scored with an exquisite left footed volley. The away side were still not satisfied, and scored a fourth goal when another Cerci corner found an unmarked Torino player - this time Danilo D'Ambrosio, who scored yet another headed goal to further his claim as the best full back in the world (maybe I'm exaggerating) at scoring with his head. 

Three minutes later Toro added a fifth goal, as Rolando Bianchi met Alen Stevanovic's through ball before blasting the ball past Andrea Consigli, who like many, must have been wondering what had happened to his defence. That goal was Bianchi's 70th in a Torino shirt, and he now enters the record books as Torino's tenth top scorer of all-time (tied with Ezio Loik) - an incredible achievement in the modern era.

The remaining fifteen minutes of the match was played at a slow tempo, with Torino more than happy with their margin of victory, and a shell-shocked Atalanta side still trying to comprehend what had happened. This was the first time Toro had scored five goals in a Serie A away game since May 1993, and was enough to move the Granata up to sixth place in the table.

Forza Torino

Friday, 28 September 2012

Atalanta V Torino Preview

After three games without a win, Torino will make the short trip to Bergamo on Sunday afternoon in search of a much-needed victory.

The Granata were very unlucky not to get all three points against Udinese on Wednesday, and two players who were rested for that match - Alessio Cerci and Rolando Bianchi, are almost certain to return to the starting eleven. Migjen Basha impressed in midweek, and could keep his place in midfield, whilst Salvatore Masiello could also return at left back.

Atalanta have won two of their five matches so far this season, including a shock 1-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro two weeks ago. However, they lost 2-1 to Catania in their last match, and star striker German Denis is struggling to recapture last season's form - having only scored once so far this campaign.

Atalanta 1-2 Torino