Straight from the dark heart of Italy
As Turin's two clubs - Torino and Juventus - sit atop Serie B and Serie A respectively, Adam Digby looks at what the clubs' rivalry means to the city...
The Mole Antonelliana is a major landmark in the northern Italian city of Turin. It is named after the architect who built it, Alessandro Antonelli, and stands tall above its surroundings, its distinctive spire every inch as synonymous with the town below as the world famous Shroud housed just a mile away.
In the Italian language, the word mole literally means 'size', and is often used to denote a building of lavish proportions. As such, it is perhaps fitting that the derby encounter between the city's two clubs derives its name from the term.
Juventus and Torino contest what is known as Il Derby della Mole and, thanks to them currently leading the top two divisions, Turin is once again becoming a major force in Italian football, having spent the last few years in the shadows of Rome and then Milan.
The cross-city encounter has been one of Italian football's fiercest rivalries since Torino were founded by former Juve President Alfredo Dick in December 1906 following a less than amicable split.
The divide between the two sets of supporters was often seen as a symbol of the class divide of those pre-Second World War days. Juventus were closely associated with the wealthy Agnelli family - owners of car manufacturers FIAT, with Torinese novelist Mario Soldati remarking that the Bianconeri were "the team of gentlemen, industrial pioneers, Jesuits, conservatives and the wealthy bourgeois". Torino were, according to Soldati, "the team of the working class, migrant workers from the provinces or neighbouring countries, the lower middle-class and the poor".
There have also been comparisons with another northern industrial town, Manchester, with Juve's widespread support across the country compared to that of United, while Torino's more localised fan base draws parallels with City.
Looking at results of their 227 encounters to date, Juventus are the side in the ascendancy, with 91 wins and 62 draws, but il Toro (74 wins) have enjoyed their own spells of dominance, particularly before the tragedy of Superga in 1949 when they were undeniably Europe’s premier club.
During the 1970’s Torino went over five years unbeaten against their neighbours, while they also overcame them in the 1938 Italian Cup final by an aggregate score of 5-2.
Yet since Torino's last win – a 2-1 Serie A triumph in April 1995 – Juventus have taken control, with eight wins and four draws.
Throughout their 106 year history, Torino have only spent twelve seasons outside the top flight and ten of those have come in the years since that last derby triumph. Strangely, one of their two seasons in Serie A in that intervening period coincided with Juve's year of exile in the second tier, much to the delight of their fans, who took great pleasure in seeing their rivals finally take a turn below them in the lower tier.
Giorgio Chiellini celebrates scoring the winner in the most recent Turin derby
Fast forward to today, however, and the Granata are enjoying a superb season, sitting first in Serie B after 35 games, boasting the best defensive record in the division and having suffered just five defeats.
Coach Giampiero Ventura has a squad built specifically to win promotion, blending veteran campaigners such as Alessandro Parisi and Ferdinando Coppola, with promising young players such as Matteo Darmian and current Italy International Angelo Ogbonna.
Across town, having moved out of the Stadio Olimpico – which the two clubs previously shared – Juventus are three points clear of Milan at the top of Serie A, and amazingly still undefeated after 34 league matches.
That Ventura is the Torino coach is one of many links between the two clubs and, given the style and philosophy he seemingly shares with his Juve counterpart Antonio Conte, the one which echoes with greatest resonance.
When their paths first crossed, Conte was at Bari and Ventura in charge of Pisa. The future Juventus boss was left hugely impressed by his opposite number's tactical approach, and would go on to mimic the 4-2-4 system used by the Tuscan side that day, making it his first choice formation until his arrival in Turin last summer.
This made it relatively easy for Ventura to replace Conte when the latter left Bari for Atalanta in 2009, although both men retain an open outlook and have since developed far greater tactical flexibility.
But the similarities run far deeper than that and the fact both currently have two Serie A promotions to their name.
Both extol the team ideal over individual qualities as the relatively low tally of each sides’ top scorer attests; Mirco Antenucci has just nine for the Granata while Alessandro Matri has ten for Juve.
They both also maintain, despite the effort demanded by their defensive strategies – in each case based on almost relentless pressing – a small turnover of players. Both squads contain eleven men who have started at least twenty-two games as the two men continue to concentrate on a small core of key players who have earned their trust.
With a league title still far from guaranteed for either team, perhaps even hoping for a return of the derby is a stretch, given Torino's woes in recent seasons.
They have established a strong lead atop the Serie B table but losing in the playoffs hit the side hard last season and ensuring automatic promotion must be the first objective for Ventura and his team.
Across town, both the fans and the financial position of the club make a Champions League berth the absolute minimum required return from a season which has already promised so much. Supporters on both sides will watch and hope their teams end the campaign as strongly as they began it. Their city awaits.
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