Torino made it clear this summer that they are no longer content to sit mid-table and churn out Italian talents only to sell them on at a profit. This club is historically one of the most important in Italy and has a large fan-base famously dominating the city of Turin, whereas the majority of Juventus fans reside in other parts of the country. It’s only right that they should be ambitious and the Derby della Mole can be a turning point.
The disparity in success between the two city rivals is clear from looking at the trophy cabinet, at least over the last few decades, but above all is visible in the Turin Derby. The Granata scraped just four draws from 17 competitive encounters with Juventus over a 20-year period. April 1995 to April 2015, the streak of ignominy finally shattered by a 2-1 victory for Giampiero Ventura’s men. It had looked like the usual disappointment when Andrea Pirlo curled in a direct free kick, but after the restart Matteo Darmian and ex-Juve striker Fabio Quagliarella turned it around for a famous success story. The celebrations in the city were akin to a Scudetto, as the curse appeared to be broken.
Of course, the joy was short-lived. Toro went into the next derby looking down the table at their richer cousins for the first time since 1993, and with the scores at 1-1 were pouring forward in search of a victory, keeping Gigi Buffon very busy. This left them open to the counter and a last-gasp Juan Cuadrado counter-attack, the Colombian’s first goal in a Juventus jersey. It was the same old story again – valiant Torino undone by the more clinical Bianconeri and all anyone would remember was the result.
There are many derbies in Italian football, but whereas Milan-Inter and Roma-Lazio are evenly matched, in Turin it’s very much a one-sided affair. Juve fans shrug that this fixture is not one of the most important in a packed calendar, but the Granata supporters feel the season might be salvaged if only they can upset the complacent upstarts who claim to represent the city.
Sinisa Mihajlovic is probably the right man to have on the bench in a situation like this. He has an intense dislike of Juventus thanks to his time at Inter and Fiorentina, their more traditional rivals, and himself has an awful record against them. Miha has beaten the Old Lady only once as a Coach, when Catania earned a shock 2-1 success in Turin in December 2009, along with four draws and six losses.
Adem Ljajic, Leandro Castan and Iago Falque bring their Roma experiences of Juventus tension, while Joe Hart’s Manchester City lost home and away to Max Allegri’s men in the Champions League last term. It’s probably the first truly high-profile match for Hart at Toro, one that all eyes will be on even in England, so as the most experienced player in the squad there’s extra pressure on him.
Andrea Belotti recently signed a contract extension with a €100m release clause, valid only for teams outside of Italy. Many clubs are introducing what’s been nicknamed the ‘anti-Juve clause,’ ensuring the giants cannot replicate their poaching of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli and Miralem Pjanic from Roma. This is a head-to-head between the two most prolific Serie A strikers of 2016 and Belotti is the one looking decidedly more in form of late.
Torino will rarely get a better opportunity to knock down Juventus. An injury crisis has wiped out half the defence, Paulo Dybala might not be fit to start, while Allegri’s constant tinkering is yet to create a truly convincing performance this season. Mihajlovic, on the other hand, has practically a full squad at his disposal and a clear identity in their attacking 4-3-3 brand of football. For the first time in many years, Toro feel like a real team and Juve a bunch of individual talents with little genuine cohesion.
On Sunday afternoon, Toro will have more fans than they’ve ever had before, as the rest of the Serie A community waits with baited breath for the leaders to be toppled, opening up the Scudetto race. Juve have already lost three games this season and there’s every chance of another setback at the Stadio Grande Torino.