It’s been a rather strange summer for Torino so far. Walter Mazzarri’s men enjoyed a solid campaign last term, as they were even in contention for a Champions League place until the final rounds, but eventually had to wait for Milan’s exclusion by UEFA in order to sneak into the Europa League.
Nevertheless, the Granata are undoubtedly worthy of playing in Europe, as their performances from last season proved that Toro can trouble anyone on their day. However, before even thinking about how far Mazzarri’s side can go into the competition, they first need to go through the qualifying rounds.
Torino’s first opponent is Debrecen, and with the Hungarian side being not so well known in Italy, we provide you with a primer on what to expect.
András Herczeg’s side secured their participation in the Europa League after finishing third in the Hungarian championship last season. It should be also stated that Debrecen is the most successful Hungarian team since the start of the century, as they have won seven domestic titles during that period.
However, their last triumph came in the 2013-14 campaign and Debrecen have been on a rather rough patch ever since, missing on a top three finish in three of the last five campaigns.
The main reason behind their return into the top three last term has been their performances at home, as Debrecen lost only two games at the Nagyerdei Stadion last season. However, as big of an advantage as their home form was, Debrecen’s away performances have been rather shocking, with Herczeg’s men winning just three out of the 16 away fixtures in the league last season.
Therefore Torino should take full advantage of that, as the Hungarians’ away performances in Europe have been equally unimpressive with only two victories in 18 trips. In fact, Debrecen have won just three games in European competitions away from home since the start of the century.
This means that the Granata should try to put pressure on Debrecen from the start and look for an early goal, as the Hungarians could become dangerous if they gain confidence. However, that might prove to be trickier than it seems, as Herczeg’s men already played two European gamesthis summer and will be expected to be much further in their preparation than Mazzarri’s side.
A quick look at Debrecen’s two-legged encounter in the first qualifying round of the Europa League confirms how big a difference there is between the team’s home and away performances. The Hungarians destroyed Albanian side Kukesi 3-0 in front of their crowd in the first leg, but then secured a rather lucky 1-1 draw in the return leg that for a moment put their qualification under jeopardy, as the Albanians opened the scoring and missed several good chances.
Similarly to Toro, Debrecen count a lot on physicality with two of their strikers standing out, as usually either Tamas Takacs (196 cm) or Haruna Garba (190 cm) leads the line. Having such a powerful presence up front often allows the Hungarians to beat high-pressing teams, as their strikers not only secure a powerful presence up front, but also create spaces for Debrecen’s faster and more skilful players.
Kevin Varga is one of them, as the 23-year-old scored twice in the first-leg victory against Kukesi, but both of his goals came after some good work of the aforementioned Garba, who appeared as a second half substitute. Garba seems to be Debrecen’s best option for the games against Torino, as the Nigerian’s athleticism and mobility is something that the 196cm tall Takacs just can’t offer.
All this means that Torino’s fitness level would be crucial, as there is little doubt that Mazzarri’s men are the superior side when it comes to their quality. However, early European games against an opponent that is expected to be in better physical condition and performs well at home should not be taken lightly.
That is exactly why Toro should do their best to secure a comfortable lead over Debrecen before the return fixture in Hungary, as if the Granata fail to do so, the tie can become much more complicated.