The race for the Champions League places is heating up in Serie A as the season draws to a close. With Juventus crowned as champions, Napoli in a distant second and Inter seemingly looking like they’ll hold on to their third place, the race for fourth is thrilling with Atalanta, Roma, AC Milan and Lazio all battling for that final spot.
However, there is one club who are drawing attention and flying under the radar, currently sitting sixth in Serie A and that is Torino. With all the attention on Atalanta looking like a huge underdog to make it to the Champions League the attention is on them but the Granata are pushing them all the way under highly charismatic coach Walter Mazzarri.
On Sunday goals from Andrea Belotti and Alex Berenguer helped Torino defeat Milan in a crucial match in the race for the top four. With Milan having coming off a crushing defeat to Lazio in the Coppa Italia midweek, Torino sensed the Rossoneri’s vulnerability and put them to the sword. Three points were crucial and by the end of the week after Atalanta’s 2-0 win over Udinese on Monday night, Torino now sit on 56 points with Atalanta on 59 points with four games to go.
Torino are seven-time Serie A champions and five-time Coppa Italia winners. Their greatest foray in European football was making it to the final in the 1992 UEFA Cup losing to the Dutch giants Ajax. As of this season, Torino have the 10th highest average attendance in Serie A with 20,994 spectators on average for home games.
The club still remember and mourn the Superga Air Disaster which tragically killed all members of the Torino squad and staff on May 4, 1949. The 70th Anniversary of that disaster is coming up on Saturday when the entire club will commemorate the Grande Torino side.
Led by captain Andrea Bellotti, who on Sunday scored his 13th goal of the season, and is arguably their most important player, the work he does not just on the ball, but off it are admirable.
Torino under Walter Mazzarri posses some impressive characteristics that have spurred them on to become one of the challengers for that Champions League spot. Pressing and making sure they win 50/50 balls, as well as their strength in aerial duels are key. Plus, the width, aggression and being unfraid to take long shots and whip crosses into the box makes them a tough opponent for any side.
Mazzarri has them well organised in a 3-5-2 formation. Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu has been extremely important for his team by demonstrating match winning saves and ensuring a well organised and rock of a defence is in front of him.
There is Armando Izzo who not only possesses impressive defensive qualities but his aggression and attacking instinct sees him with four goals this season. He is tied in the goal scoring charts with Daniele Baselli who operates in a important midfield, alongside Tomas Rincon and Soualiho Meite.
All three have been crucial for the Torino midfield. They’re the spine in the team and a crucial in how Torino attempt to control the pace of the game. After his side’s victory over Milan on Sunday night Mazzarri made it clear his team fear no one.
“We’ve learned tonight that we can fight it out with anyone,” Mazzarri said to Sky Sport Italia. “We deserved the victory, we’ve beaten big clubs so far this season, we beat Milan 2-0 and no longer feel an inferiority complex with anybody.”
The spirit of Grande Torino on the 70th anniversary of the disaster may drive Torino to push and dream of reaching the Champions League.
Their fixtures for the remainder of the season see them face arch rivals Juventus in the Derby della Mole. With Juventus likely thinking about the summer after wrapping up the title, perhaps this is the best time for Torino to face Juventus.
A home game against Sassuolo, an away trip against Empoli follow before a crunch match against Lazio on the final day of the season which could prove to be a crucial match in the fight for the top four.