A bright start in Turin, but will it last?

For two years in the mid-1970s, Juventus and Torino dominated Italian football. None more so than in 1976 when the Granata finished second to their city rivals yet were some 15 points ahead of third placed Fiorentina in the days of two points for a win. Times have changed significantly since. The Old Lady went on to establish herself as the most successful club in Italy while Torino have since failed to win a Scudetto.

While today these two Turin clubs are not even in the same division they both have enjoyed a great start to the new season.

Juve are first in Serie A and according to Walter Mazzari amongst others are the favourites for the title. The early rounds have seen the fabled Juventus ‘grinta’ return under new Coach Antonio Conte. He had it in abundance as a player and more than formations, it appears to be the biggest boost to the team currently. Against Siena and Catania the Old Lady has been able to gain points in difficult situations. Versus Milan, Juve did not crack as past incarnations may have as they continually pressured the Rossoneri and got the result.

Juventus also appears to have a pronounced squad depth. Conte has rotated depending on opponent and system, which has enabled him to slowly ease the likes of Fabio Quagliarella and Eljero Elia into the team. Conversely, Simone Pepe has made the most of his opportunities. The defence may struggle if injuries and suspension take their toll, as already seen at left-back with Paolo De Ceglie and Fabio Grosso featuring. However, any problem in that position is Conte’s own doing since he sent Reto Ziegler to Turkey.

However, perhaps not too much should be read into Juventus’ early season success for this has happened before only for things to go pear-shaped later on. Under both Luigi Del Neri and Ciro Ferrara was this the case. Last season the Old Lady collapsed along with Fabio Quagliarella’s ligaments in the New Year and one suspects that their real test will be whether or not they can continue their good work into the second half of the season.

On the other side of the city, Torino leads the way albeit in Serie B. Toro are aiming for promotion after two failed attempts, including once in the playoffs. Their win on Sunday against Verona was their seventh from nine matches and Coach Giampiero Ventura has a battled-hardened squad at his disposal. Led by Rolando Bianchi, Torino can rely on a prolific goal-scorer and veteran campaigner. At the back the highly-rated Angelo Ogbonna is the defensive stalwart of the side which is the meanest in the cadetti thus far. Another plus is Ventura, who has moulded a solid unit on the pitch and has experience in guiding teams to promotion.

Torino will need to remain a stable unit to give themselves every chance of finishing in the automatic promotion positions. Serie B is a long, hard marathon and any repeat of last season’s instability will have an adverse effect on the side. Last season saw Franco Lerda replaced by Giuseppe Papadopulo for two weeks before returning just as Toro entered a crucial phase of the season. President Urbano Cairo, whose behaviour was reminiscent of a certain president in Serie, will need to keep his fiery temper in check and have faith in Ventura if Torino wants to face off against Juve next season.

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