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A bright start in Turin but will it last?

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By Luca Cetta

Friday 14 October 2011

In the mid-1970s, Juventus and Torino fought a two-season long Turin derby in which each club claimed a Scudetto. Such was the city dominance in 1976/77 that second-placed Torino finished 15 points clear of Fiorentina in third in the days of two points per win. While not dominating calcio like the 1970s, it has nonetheless been a positive start for both the Bianconeri and Granata in 2011/12.

Juve are first in Serie A and being talked about as title contenders. 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 achieved the desired result.

Juventus also appear to have pronounced squad depth. Conte has rotated depending on opponent and system, which has ensured the likes of Fabio Quagliarella and Eljero Elia only seeing limited game-time but being able to ease their way 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.

It also started well for Juventus two years ago under Ciro Ferrara, while Luigi Del went on an unbeaten stretch before Christmas. The danger for Juve is to get overly enthusiastic, since the turn of the year has been the Achilles heel in past seasons. Conte will be aware his side needs to remain humble and hardworking.

On the other side of the city, Torino also sits first, 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 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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