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Torino: The sleeping giant of Italian football in Juventus’ shadow

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t would be easy to assume that this weekend’s Turin derby is a foregone conclusion with little to play for other than local bragging rights.

Juventus are the dominant force in Italian football, in line to record their fourth consecutive Serie A crown, while Torino have a significant job on their hands to progress further than their current position of eighth or qualify for Europe.

However, for the hosts, getting one over their illustrious neighbours would be an important part of their continued development and is long overdue.

Staggeringly, the Granata have not beaten the Bianconeri in the last 18 clashes between the teams, with Torino’s last victory coming all the way back in January 1995.

Juventus have won the last seven of the derby clashes, but five of these, including the 2-1 win earlier this season, came by a single-goal margin.

Torino’s return to the top tier of Italian football and consolidation in Serie A can only be a good thing for the game in the national game.

The historic Turin club have been crowned Italian champions on seven occasions throughout their 108-year history, including a five-year dominant streak in the 1940’s.

Torino’s last Scudetto came in 1975-76, where the Granata beat Juve into second place to claim the crown.

A period of resurgence in the early 1990’s saw Torino beaten in the 1992 Uefa Cup final by Ajax, with players such as Enzo Scifo, Gianluigi Lentini, who went on to become the world’s most expensive player when he moved to AC Milan, and a young Christian Vieri in the mix.

Winning the Coppa Italia in 1993 was the club’s last piece of silverware, while Torino have largely been in Juventus’ shadow since.

Fast forward to the current day and the Granata have been reinvigorated since the appointment of journeyman coach Giampiero Ventura in 2011.

The 67-year-old led Torino from Serie B back into the big time in his first campaign, before consolidating the team’s top-flight status the year after.

Fabio QuagliarellaHowever, it has been in the last 18 months that Torino have shown signs that they can become a challenger for European qualification.

Ventura led the Turin-based club to a seventh-placed finish last season, while Torino have been good value for their current position in the top half of the table this term – despite losing star names last summer.

After Torino’s return to Serie A, talismanic defender Angelo Ogbonna did the unthinkable in the summer of 2013, with the Italy international centre-back crossing the Turin divide to sign for Juventus.

Ahead of this season, after lighting up Italian football with their scintillating link-up play and scoring goals galore last term, both Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile were sold on.

The pair netted 35 goals between them last season, with Immobile the division’s top scorer and Cerci providing the most assists in Serie A.

Despite losing this supremely talented duo, Torino have shown no signs of slowing down, with Ventura getting the best of his squad after a number of shrewd acquisitions.

The purchase of veteran striker Fabio Quagliarella from Juve has been a masterstroke, with the 32-year-old contributing 12 league goals this season.

Marauding right wing-back Matteo Darmian continues to impress with his forward thinking and has been a mainstay of the national team, while Maxi Lopez poses a threat in attack.

Club captain Kamil Glik’s no-nonsense approach this season has seem him win plenty of plaudits as he leads by example and also has an eye for goal from centre-half; the Polish enforcer has scored seven times in 2014-15.

Although the result of Sunday’s derby will not overly influence proceedings in this season’s Serie A campaign, Torino fans will hope and pray for a win to end their miserable run of form against Juventus.

For Torino to continue to evolve under Ventura and push for European qualification, three points would be a very welcome outcome for this sleeping giant of Italian football.

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