Despite finishing in seventh place last season, Torino gets the chance to participate in European competition for the first time in over twenty years, thanks to Parma’s gaffe in having its UEFA licence denied due to tax compliance issues.
It was just two years ago that Torino was promoted from Serie B. During the 2012-13 season the granata avoided going back down and finished in 16th place, two spots above the relegation zone. Last year led by captain Kamil Glik and the dynamic duo of Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci, Torino surprised many as they finished the campaign in 7th place. The stability provided by 66 year-old coach Giampiero Ventura, who has been with the club from their Serie B championship, has been instrumental in Torino’s success. It doesn’t hurt your chances when you have the leading scorer on your team. Immobile was the capocannoniere of Serie A scoring an impressive 22 goals, and his partner Cerci chipped in with 13 of his own.
Cerci will now become the go-to-guy for Torino as Immobile has been sold to Borussia Dortmund for 20M euros. Immobile’s departure, which was the only significant subtraction from the roster, will leave a huge void. Cerci will need to depend on his new partner Fabio Quagliarella, who returns to his roots from Juventus. A special homecoming of sorts which should spark Quagliarella to perform well and given his importance to the club and more playing time than he got at Juventus. Other notable arrivals are Antonio Nocerino (on loan from Milan), Cristian Molinaro (acquired from Parma) and Juan Manuel Sanchez Mino (from Boca Juniors). These three acquisitions fill some holes in the lineup with much needed depth.
It will be interesting to see if Torino will resist the temptation to sell Cerci, and at the same time, his Italian national teammate Matteo Darmian. The defender impressed with his play during the World Cup and has caught the eye of many suitors, including rival Juventus. Had Torino not been granted access to Europa League, perhaps the decision to sell them would have been easier. However Torino chairman Urbano Cairo has always maintained that if either Cerci or Darmian want to leave, it would be difficult to not grant them their wish.
Ventura is expected to have a 3-5-2 formation: Padelli; Maksimovic, Glik, Moretti; Darmian, Nocerino, Vives, El Kaddouri, Molinaro; Quagliarella, Cerci.
Having advanced to the playoff round of Europa League, after dismantling Brommapojkarna 7-0 on aggregate, Torino joins Inter in their pursuit of advancing to the group stage. All signs point to the granata reaching the next round fairly easily, as they face Croatian side Split.
In regards to the upcoming season, Torino have a tough schedule as the debut facing Inter, followed by Sampdoria and Verona. There are no easy games and Ventura will have to mange the roster efficiently if he wants Torino to acquire any type of trophy. Its a delicate balance as the pressure to win is constant in trying to achieve a championship, yet there are some youth that need to develop as well. As things stand now there is nothing to suggest they won’t be able to challenge for a spot in the top ten of the table. Inter will be a formidable opponent to start the Serie A campaign as they also have their sights on doing well both in league play and Europa League. Sampdoria start the season with Mihajlovic as bench boss, and expectations are high to continue his fine work last season. Finally Verona, despite losing Iturbe and Romulo to Roma and Juventus, respectively, still have Luca Toni to lead the charge as the veteran striker strives to maintain last season’s form.
The last time Torino won the scudetto was 28 years ago, where they beat out rival Juventus by one point to become champions of Italy.
Europa League: Quarter-finals