Torino’s battle to beat the drop continues this weekend as Giancarlo Camolese’s men travel to the San Siro faced with the daunting prospect of Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan. Cesare Natali’s dramatic late winner against Catania has dragged il Toro out of the relegation zone for the time being and given the Turin side an almighty boost as they looked to have booked a one way ticket to Serie B after just one win in their last 13 league matches.
A quick glance at their run in does not inspire a great degree of confidence on the Granata’s part, with Champions League chasers Genoa and Fiorentina in amongst tough trips to Roma and Napoli. Torino is going to need around ten points from somewhere and although home fixtures with Siena and fellow strugglers Bologna are to come, it still looks an uphill task. With Chievo now four points ahead of the Granata and in a rich vein of form, it is looking more and more like three from four, with Lecce, Bologna and Reggina joining il Toro – although the Amaranto are all but doomed. We are certain for more twists and turns yet in this relegation dogfight but Torino’s temporary bottom three refuge is set to be short lived in many spectators’ eyes.
While Torino’s campaign gears up for a desperate and frantic end, Milan has seven remaining games to saunter over the finish line with Champions League qualification their only worry. A six point cushion should suffice at this stage of the season so Ancelotti’s glare may well be on overhauling a stuttering Juventus into second spot. It has been a season of fits and starts for the Rossoneri and it looks destined to fizzle out into another trophy-less and uninspired campaign.
Much has been made of the recent speculation regarding both Ancelotti and Kaká and if the rumours are to be believed it will spell worrying times ahead for il Diavolo. Real Madrid’s pursuit of the Brazilian seems never ending but the No. 22 looks content at pouring cold water on the fire at present – once again dismissing suggestions of a summer switch, instead stating next season at Milan will spark a “new era.” With Maldini, Emerson and company set to hang up their boots at the season’s end, Kaká’s suggestion of a new era may not be so wide of the mark. Youngsters such as Thiago Silva and Mathieu Flamini are all capable performers at this level and perhaps next season younger players will be given their chance. Whether they are good enough to challenge for the title is another question for another day but there can be no doubt the Rossoneri have to move forward now. Kaká’s proposal of signing Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard seems unlikely but the noises coming from the San Siro hint at major changes, though stopping short at a summer clearout.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti is set to go with almost the same team that won at Chievo, with Marek Jankulovski’s suspension the only forced change with Luca Antonini set to come in for the Czech full back. Paolo Maldini will replace fellow veteran defender Giuseppe Favalli if fit, to partner the impressive Philippe Senderos. The long-serving Coach tested a new formation last weekend with Alexandre Pato, Clarence Seedorf and Kaká supporting lone striker Filippo Inzaghi in a new look 4-2-3-1 system. Ronaldinho will continue to warm the bench alongside David Beckham and Andriy Shevchenko in what will be a superstar substitute line-up, albeit all a little past their best.
No doubt those three would find a way into Camolese’s team though, as the former Livorno boss will again attempt to find a remedy to Torino’s goal shortage without shipping too many at the other end. Rolando Bianchi and Roberto Stellone will be asked to lead the attack but the two Italian front men will do little to give the likes of Senderos and the legendary Maldini nightmares with figures of just eight league goals between them this term. Alessandro Rosina will burden much of the creative weight on his shoulders but he has delivered far too infrequently this campaign, although an inspired run of form from the talented forward might just give il Toro the edge in the battle for survival. Rosina is set to start in his favoured role behind the strikers as Camolese points towards a positive team selection, believed to be in the shape of wing backs and a 3-5-2 formation. A gutsy call from the 48-year-old, but risky and brave calls are the order of the day now and it is a mark of a good Coach to be courageous and put his reputation on the line in his team’s time of need. On the flip side, the cliché desperate times call for desperate measures springs to mind but let us give Camolese his due and hope that on his behalf it is a stroke of genius and not an invitation for Milan to romp to a cricket score and all but shatter Torino’s survival ambitions.
As we enter the business end of the season every match brings higher stakes and bigger pressures. The form book can get ripped up now as far as Torino are concerned – they are just after heart, fight and inspiration as they possibly need three or more wins in the coming month. It is very much “cometh the hour cometh the man” time now but who will step forward and save the Turin side from yet again failing amongst Italy’s elite. It is time to prove they can cope at this level, and at what better setting than the San Siro. It is a time for heroes.