Welcome back! After leaving you on the cusp of December 2025 in the last post I will look to update you further across the 2025/26 season.
Our last match in November had come with great positivity. We had beaten Celtic at Celtic park to claim top spot in our Champions league group and to qualify for the first knockout round. Could December match our early winter form?
Matchday 14 was a date in Rome to play against Roma in the Stadio Olimpico. Last season we had squandered a 2-0 lead to somehow crawl back to Turin with a 2-2 draw. Could we shake off the ghost of the Olimpico?
Roma winger Marziale made light work down the right-hand side of our defence to score the opener after only 8 minutes. Il Toro would then spend the rest of the first half camped in the Roma half trying to break down their stubborn defence. The second half came and Roma were less rigid at the back, but we became to obsessed with trying to reduce the deficit that we forgot how to defend. And Bryan Cristante doubled Roma’s lead in the 51st minute. We then went back to overloading the Roma half with attack after attack. Eventually a sweetly struck shot from Nico Barella would ease our tension. But for all our huff and puff we couldn’t get the second goal. We went down 2-1.
Champions League Matchday six would see Torino host my former club West Ham United. With top spot sewn up, I chose to rest a few key players and field a few youth players who had been on the fringes this season. Pipo Calloni was given a rare opportunity to lead the line of attack. And boy did he seize his opportunity. Calloni opened the scoring in the 29th minute. Yet West Ham would capitalise on a lack of focus after that goal and score a minute later when Sandro Tonali slotted home a close-range strike following a corner. This then led to Torino playing even more with the ball. Our Tiki taka brand of football kicked in where we set about moving the ball around the West Ham half trying to manipulate space and movement. We broke the deadlock in the 75th minute when a throw in from De Leonardis was controlled and recycled by Calloni onward to playmaker Allegra. Allegra then passed the ball into that path of the oncoming Rico Silva who slotted home a neat shot. Calloni then extended the lead by slotting home a close range shot courtesy of a cross from loanee Alessandro Silvestri. We won 3-1.
Pipo Calloni was given a rare opportunity to lead the line of attack. And boy did he seize his opportunity.
Serie A Matchday 15 then saw last season’s Serie B Champions, Perugia, visit to Il Toro. We saw this match as a chance to rest a few key players and give valuable game time to several youngsters. Perugia played very well. They came with a plan to defend and boy did they. We eventually broke them down in the 31st minute for Nico Barella to score a screamer. The second half remain a struggle, the kids were not getting anywhere despite youthful ignorance. And then we then concede late in the 84-minute, Perugia break quickly, creating a 3vs2 situation and capitalize on the space. We drew 1-1, and started to lose a little ground on Serie A leaders Inter.
Our next match was our 1st round tie in the Coppa Italia vs Genoa. With the tie being at home and the previous match leaving a sour taste in the mouth I looked to field a strong line up. Within five minutes Dell’Anna scored, Van Den Engel doubled our lead in the 22nd minute and Captain Mina wrapped up the tie in the second half with a rare goal. We won 3-0.
Our last game before Christmas was the Mole Derby vs Juventus, the match was at the Stadio Grande Torino Olimpico. The press led the charge with questioning whether Il Toro could stop Benedini. The 22-year-old Italian marksman had scored eleven in 12 internationals and had scored in the last four meetings vs Torino. The match took off at the usual manic Derby pace. With neither side taking control of possession. The 33rd minute would then see Dutch midfielder Leroy Van Den Engel receive a straight red card for a two footed challenge on Juve captain Zak Jaouhari. (it looked more like a push). Now down to ten men, we made a slight change to the tactic rather than swapping personnel. We pushed Attacking playmaker Allegra more central and I hoped the two wide men would push more infield when defending.
We anticipated Juventus would then go on the offensive, but nothing happened for the rest of the first half. The second half came, and I told the lads to be more cautious due to being a man down. With most of the lads now holding back we were now giving Juve more space to operate. In the 50th minute Bernardeschi used the space to drive forward before knocking a gentle pass wide for the advancing Joao Cancelo to run on to, he then crossed the ball into the Il Toro box for that man Benedini to glance a head past Pasotti. Something needed to change…..but what? Within the next ten minutes I swapped both wingers in a bid to mix things up a bit and I then looked to take a tired Allegra off for Rico Silva. Time then lapsed and I began to think we had lost all chance of gaining anything out of this match. Until our very own superstar forward decided to turn up. Deep into added time Massimo Dell’Anna sparked into life. Antonio Lucerelli picked the ball up off Rico Silva and advanced into a brickwall down the lefthand side of the Juventus defence. Between Emre Can and Bruno Abrami the ball somehow became free and Lucerelli pounced to strike the ball goalwards. The ball sailed past Szczesny and hit the inside of the post for the ball to come back into play. Dell’Anna was on had to slot home the equaliser. GGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL!!!
The last two minutes of added time were then played at a frantic pace. Juve kicked off and were having to play one touch passes due to the pressing of Dell’Anna, Lucerelli and Vannini. The heavy pressing worked, and we got the ball back through Lucerelli on the right. We then steadily passed around Juve to force a foul in the Juventus half. The resulting freekick gave Lucerelli the chance to calm things down in the final seconds of the match. He stroked the ball over the two-man wall and defence of Juve for Dell’Anna to head the ball goalwards. His header hit the inside of the post (the same post that had denied Lucerelli minutes before), And Winger Vannini was the quickest to respond, he slotted home a very late winner, when all hope had been lost. GGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!
We won the Derby 2-1. This victory was very much needed to keep the fight on, for the battle at the top of the table.
( I must admit this match was played late at night, and I had to contain myself to a very muted celebration due to small people being a sleep in the next room!)
Our next two matches after Christmas were a 4-1 away win against Salernitana, and then a home draw against Napoli (0-0). The latter came only a day after the Salernitana match, I was very happy with a draw as the key players I did field were shattered. We also played Palermo in the quarterfinal of the Coppa Italia. We would win 1-0.
With December wrapped up we then had a wee winter break. It would have been a full 14 days off, but I had scheduled a trip to France to play a friendly against Rennes to prevent us from going cold. (we won 4-0).
Our first semi competitive match of the new year was the Supercoppa which was to be played in Erdos in China. With most of the lads feeling refreshed. We went about business as usual. We played against last season’s Coppa Italia champions Genoa. After a steady first half where we learned about humidity. Our second half would see our chances at goal increase. Dell’Anna and Van den Engel both scoring to secure the trophy for Il Toro. 2-0.
One of the wonderful things about Serie A is that I have noticed that the in bound January transfer market closes around the first matchday back after the winter break. We sent Petrachi out to secure two players, Gianluca Mancini from Atalanta. I was hoping Mancini would provide the squad with experience and act as a firm back up to Apraham Pan. The other was to secure the signature of Gianluigi Donnarumma. Gigi had become disillusioned at Milan after they had finished 7th in Serie A the previous season. I had pressed with a number of unsuccessful enquires but believed we had the upper hand after qualifying for the next round of the Champions League. We also had Leonardo Pasotti out injured until April. So, the signing of another Goalkeeper was very high priority. Mancini came for £10.75m and the want away Donnarumma came for £20m (plus a lot of add ons).
Upon returning to action in January were to go on a three-game winning streak which see us close on Inter, who at this point have dropped points during the Christmas period and have also lost in the Milan derby against Milan. We won 3-0 against Frosinone and Udinese respectively and 3-1 against Palermo. We then wrapped up January with a bore draw away at Carpi (0-0).
February then saw Il Toro struggle against runaway Serie B leaders Atalanta in Bergamo in the first leg of the semi final of the Coppa Italia. We had to show some metal as we had to claw back a 2-0 deficit to come away with a 2-2 draw and two very important away goals. Former Atalanatan Antoni Lucerelli scoring a brace for Il Toro.
After surviving that wobble we then won our next two league matches convincingly. First was a 2-0 win against Sassuolo. And then a top of the table clash against Inter. Gazzetta Dello Sport claimed the winner would take the title! We won 3-0, in a match that saw us dominate play and somehow take the chances that we had been missing in previous matches. But would we go on to win the league? It was too early to claim the title we had another 14 matches to play!
Il Vinictore prende tutto! – Gazzetta Dello Sport
We then had the first leg of the first round in the Champions league. Buoyed with the last performance I had hoped we would get something out of what would be a tough tie. We had Sevilla in Seville. The match was a bit of a bore. With little to separate the two teams until Sevilla winger Inaki scored a sublime goal from outside of the area in the 44th minute. We went into the dressing room disappointed as I had thought we had slightly edged the match up until that point. We went into the second half with slightly more purpose and in the 61st minute David Taddei popped up with the all-important away goal. The winger got on the end of a De Leonardis cross and tapped in a close ranged shot.
Our next match was our second leg of the Coppa Italia Semi Final against Atalanta. This time we had home advantage and with greater knowledge of our opponents. We went on to win 3-0 in what would be a very one-sided match. Dell’Anna opened the scoring late in the first half for Van Den Engel to double our lead just before the whistle was blown to wrap the first half up. The third goal was a sucker punch to Atalanta, who would concede 10 minutes into the second half. We then coasted until the final whistle winning 3-0.
We then wrapped February up with a solid performance against Fiorentina at the Franchi. With a 4-1 win. Lucerelli once again proving to be a master stroke of a signing by Mister Petrachi. He came on and assisted with the third and scored the fourth goal for Il Toro.
We were now riding high in Serie A and we were also stretching away from Inter who had now dropped in form. March, our shortest month in the football calendar would see Il Toro continue a rich vein of form. Two victories in the league, a 5-2 win against Lazio, Vannini claiming a hattrick, and a 3-0 win against Bologna, which saw three youngsters on the scoreline (Mensah, Donati and Benazzi).
We also welcomed Sevilla to the Grande Torino Olimpico for our second leg first round tie in the Champions League. Unlike the previous game against Sevilla where we were very conservative in our approach. This time I looked to seize home advantage with positive football. And the turn around in performance was staggering. We won 5-1 with Dell’Anna and Allegra bagging a brace and Lucerelli getting his name on the scoresheet once again.
The next three weeks saw many of the squad break up for the Easter half term…I mean Easter internationals.
April would spring into action for Il Toro with a trip to the San Siro. Matchday 24 would see Striker Dell’Anna at his most lethal. Bagging a brace to dump Milan in their own back yard. The 2-0 win would see Milan lose three on the bounce and lose some ground on Il Toro for the race of Serie A.
In a complete contrast April would be a near complete month for Torino. Il Toro would next beat Arsenal in the Quarter Final first leg in the Champions league 2-0 (at the Emirates Stadium).
A 2-0 win against Chievo following in the league before the second leg match against Arsenal. Luis Enrique’s side would put up more fight in this leg, but Il Toro would prove to be too strong. Arsenal sort to reduce the aggregate deficit by scoring in the 16th minute, Romanian midfielder Petricau putting away a strong shot past Donnarumma. They then scored again 2 minutes later through Spanish forward Edgar Alvarez. Arsenal were now back in the tie. I started screaming all sorts of expletives from the touchline questioning the passion and motivation of the team. Eventually I struck a chord. Bellanova threw the ball back into play in the Arsenal half, to Dell’Anna. Dell’Anna then drove towards the box with the ball and then passed wide to his left to the marauding Mina. Mina picked his head up to deliver a cross and pick out Dell’Anna in the box to head the ball past Bernd Leno to put Torino back in the tie. Ten minutes later, after some strong Il Toro pressure in the Arsenal half, Il Toro did it again. David Taddei picked the ball up in the centre of the pitch from Marco Falco. Taddei then drove down the left wing to pull out a majestic cross that the boy wonder of the moment, Dell’Anna coolly slotted in to the back of the net. With the tie back firmly in Torino’s hands the boys began to play more expansive football in a bid to put the tie well and beyond Arsenal. In the 70th minute Van Den Engel did just that. He received the ball courtesy of a lovely little knock down by Allegra, Van Den Engel then blasted a shot inside the penalty box to score the final goal of the tie.
April would then see two further victories in Serie A first a 3-0 win against Lecce and then a 2-1 win against struggling Sampdoria.
The final victory of the month would come in the Semi final first leg of the Champions League. We were paired to play against Barcelona. The first leg was at the Camp Nou. And somehow, we managed to win 2-1. This was the first time I had encountered Barcelona in this save.
This Barcelona (Zinedine Zidane’s Barcelona) has different superstars to the one in RL. Key players in this side are Ryan Gravenberch, Lucas Paqueta, and Gelson Martins. Along with Newgens Sergio Vaca, Fran Vila and Jesus Borrega.
We got off to an amazing start, through a Dell’Anna goal in the 11th minute. But Barcelona then got back into the match through Borrega scoring an equalizer. The match was a great tactical battle for Il Toro who went with their usual WM tactic but played within a very structured and cautious manner to ensure they were not too leaky in defence. The second half then saw Michael Mensah score a lovely volley to put Il Toro 2-1 up. The match was almost complete when De Leonardis received his marching orders for a clumsy foul on Veca. De Leonardis had found himself on the wrong side of Veca and brought down Barcelona’s Argentine striker. After a shuffle of the pack as we had used all of the subs, we managed to grind out a famous victory in Spain.
Our last match of the month would see the team take their foot off the gas, I have no idea why but for some strange reason I think the high of winning against Barcelona somehow flummoxed our ability to play football against Palermo at home. We would lose 1-0 and this was the first loss in all competitions since the tussle against Roma at the beginning of December. (29 matches unbeaten).
Just like April, May was to be a hectic month of fixtures. Our first was the second leg Semi-Final against Barcelona. The home tie compared to the first leg was an awful scrappy, stop start kind of match. So, in a way, perfect for Torino. We battled hard and were given an opportunity to sink the Barcelona ship with a penalty due to some pushing in the box during a corner. Dell’Anna stepped up but failed to score, Ter Stegan pulling of a wonderful save to keep Barcelona in the tie. The second half continued to disappoint with the Spanish team trying to lure Torino into attacking freely in a bid to catch our back line stretched on the counterattack. Unfortunately for Barcelona, Torino stuck to their task and ground out a solid 0-0 draw to book a place in the European Champions League Final.
We then played two away games in Serie A, first was a 1-1 draw against Cagliari. Youngster Calloni scored for Il Toro and Stefano Bini, who was on loan from Milan scored for the Islanders. (Note we have signed Bini on free contract from Milan and the guy is due in on July the 1st).
Our second away match was the second Mole Derby of the season. I had noticed we were beginning to struggle (Dell’Anna had been injured in the second Barcelona match and was not due back until the Salernitana match). Calloni was a decent back up but despite the lads pace he was no Massimo Dell’Anna. We played like the previous two matches, with caution. As I felt we were not at the races, not only were we without Dell’Anna, but we were also without playmaker Van Den Engel who was not due back until the next match. Somehow, we managed to keep Matteo Benedini quiet but with all our efforts concentrating on defending we stifled our own attacking prowess as we ground out a 0-0 draw at the Allianz.
Next up was a trip to the Stadio Olimpico, not just to face Roma, but to face Roma in the Coppa Italia. (Why an earth the schedulers could not have made this a fixture after the last Serie A fixture I will never know). We knew we would be under the spotlight in this match as Roma had beaten us in our previous fixture earlier on in the campaign.
The national anthem was a blaze around the stadium and all I could do was hope that the team could summon up a performance as we had struggled in the last fifteen days. Roma kick off and looked to play a steady game from out of defence. We broke up their play and went on the attack but then Kostas Manolas stopped the Torino build up with a fine interception. He then spread the ball forwards quickly looking for the advancing Marziale. Who then spread the play wide right for Pussetto to cross to Romelu Lukaku. And Lukaku duly scored. Roma were 1-0 up and barely 2 minutes had passed. This was going to be a slog to get back into the match and win. In the 35th minute we were given our ray of light. When Marko Rog was given a second yellow card and therefore his marching orders for persistent fouling. We began to take heart over the extra man advantage that we had on the pitch. We took complete control of the match and really dominated possession. The second half had come, and we were yet to find a goal to bring us back into the match, then up popped Pipo Calloni. Torino had regained possession of the ball and David Taddei drove the ball into space down the left wing to cross a wonderful ball into the box. Calloni was on hand to take a touch to steady himself before turning and shooting at goal. GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL! 1-1. And were we back in the game!.
Our hard work then came undone in the 74th minute. As Roma spread the ball from right to the centre then in creating space send the ball wide right to Nelson Semedo. Who then crossed the ball deep into the box. Lukaku slipped inbetween Pan and De Leonardis to tap in at close range. Roma now led 2-1. And instantly looked to park the bus. We threw Rico Silva on to add fresh legs in midfield, but we ran out of steam and unfortunately lost in the Coppa Italia. (2-1).
(Why an earth the schedulers could not have made this a fixture after the last Serie A fixture I will never know).
With that great disappointment our very next match was to return to the Grande Torino Olimpico to face……. Roma (Shaking my head at this point). The morale was ok but not as high as it had been in April when we looked unstoppable. The ray of sunshine was that we had gained news that leading marksman Massimo Dell’Anna would be available in two days’ time. This meant he would miss this crucial match against Roma but would return for our next fixture in Serie A.
Pipo Calloni came of age in the 12th minute to give Il Toro a real boost in confidence. Van Den Engel received the ball and instinctively sprayed it forward to Calloni. Calloni then used the time and space to coolly run closer to the target and pass the ball past De Gregorio to put Il Toro ahead.
In the second half Roma brought on Lautaro Martinez who had an instant impact. He picked the ball up from a Lozano pass which found him between De Leonardis and Pan. Martinez glided past Pan and duly slotted home a shot past Pasotti. Roma equalised.
With 10 minutes left Torino look shattered and played what looked like simple short passes between the defenders. The ball found its way to Pasotti who decided to play as a playmaker, when he strikes forward a long pass over the top for Calloni to run on to. Pipo Calloni collected the ball and drove towards goal, shooting and scoring the second. The celebrations were loud and were aimed directly at the Roma Ultras who had mocked less than a week earlier. Only a minute had passed when Roma got a corner. Harit crossed and picked out an unmarked Martinez, who controlled the ball, turned and shot. To equalise once again.
Five minutes later Bryan Cristante found space 30yards out to fire a shot at goal. The ball hit the inside of the post and struck the hapless Leonardo Pasotti on the back to trickle into the back of the net. Roma lead 3-2. And eventual took home all three points. At this point in the title race we had now dropped below the two Milan sides, but we fortunately had a game in hand. I was starting to wonder that the title may end up being out of our hands all together!
Above are two the two goals scored by Calloni. Similar in build up. The first assisted by the sweeper keeper. The second assisted by the attacking playmaker.
Salernitana came to town and the refreshed Dell’Anna wasted no time. He scored a hattrick and the returning Lucerelli scored the other in a much needed 4-0 victory.
We then went into our game in hand with some confidence. We played a struggling Perugia at the Renato Curi. Vannini got Il Toro off to a good start scoring after only 3 minutes but our tired defence were still creaking as Perugia scored not one but two goals before half time to take the lead. I read the riot act at the interval, stating that the title would be out of our hands completely if we did not get a point from this match. The response was instant as a Van Den Engel’s rebounded shot found Lucerelli in space in the box to slot home an easy shot on goal. The game was for the taking but our killer instinct seemed to have wavered. We drew 2-2.
The last match of the Serie A campaign saw Il Toro take on Napoli at the San Paolo. Milan who were on the same number of points were taking on Sassuolo at the San Siro, Inter and Roma who were both one point below had Carpi away and Perugia at home respectively.
Knowing we had the toughest task going into the final match we held a team meeting to rally the team. We stressed how all the hard work put in between December and April would have been in vein if we did not turn up and product a performance in the last match. News came in that Inter had won away at Carpi.
The other three matches were being played simultaneously, the news filtered down to the bench that both Roma and Milan had taken early leads in their respective matches. I was keen to keep the team focussed on the job in hand and in the 20th minute we were given a freekick in shooting distance. Lucerelli teed the shot up but somehow Napoli keeper Herrera saved the shot but Allegra was lurking in the box to snaffle the rebound and placed the ball into the back of the net. GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! 1-0.
We were immediately pegged back when Spanish forward Aitor was given time and space to run on to a through ball, he then shot and scored past Donnarumma.
5 minutes later we then saw Taddei put a wonderful cross in from the left for Dell’Anna to score a header from inside the box.
I had heard that both Roma and Milan had comfortable leads, so I stressed the importance of focus and concentration for the second half. The next goal came in the 54th minute when Antoni Lucerelli scored directly from a freekick, the screamer went past Herrera and we now had a comfortable lead to protect.
We saw out the match, and some how won the league. Due to having the same points as Milan the league title was presented to us due to our better head to head results (thank EFFF! it wasn’t Roma on the same points).
I had to have a lie down following that, and I’ll be honest I think you should too, So I’ll present the Champions League final in a post on its own.
Thank you for reading and….
Ciao for Now!