Thank you for the momentary pause. I hope you have a cuppa on hand?!
This next post will pick up where the last left off. Hot after celebrating wining the Serie A for a second year on the bounce we had our second European cup final in two years. Last season we won the Europa League and Serie A double, could we go one better and win the Serie A and Champions League double? The only hurdle left was a trip to the Bernabeu to play against PSG. To give you some background on PSG, The Parisian team were current Ligue 1 champions and had just been crowned French Champions once again. They had also been in four Champions League finals in the last five years. This would make five in the last six. They had also won the Champions League on two occasions back in seasons 2021/22 and 2022/23. So, this team had some pedigree.
PSG also boasted of playing talents such as Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Marcos Asencio, and an aging Neymar. They were also propped up with new gens, such as Camilio Lizama, Dunga and Mehmet Oztuck (the latter you may not realise had been at TS Sports FC, after I had moved on to manage West Ham Utd).
The Champions League theme rang through the PA system and crowd in the Bernabeu were borderline manic in anticipation of the massive match ahead.
Torino got to kick off and Dell’Anna passed back to Allegra to get the game underway.
In the 10th minute Torino were pressing high up the pitch forcing PSG into passing back to their goalkeeper. The PSG Keeper, Vaclav Houska then passed the ball long to Ousmane Dembele who was unmarked in the PSG half. He turned and drove into the space that was in front of him as Santiago Mina began to close him down, Dembele dinked a high pass over the Torino defence and in the path of the advancing Mbappe. M’bappe then drove into the box and chipped a shot over the advancing Gigi Donnarumma to score the opening goal of the Champions League final.
The first half progressed, and Torino were holding their own despite being a goal down, the possession stats were stacking heavily in Torino’s favour. In the 32nd minute David Taddei managed to create some space for himself with a nice turn of pace. In doing so he was able to cross the ball across the box. Right Winger Antonio Lucerelli managed to get ahead of his marker and strike a shot at goal, the ball went past Houska but struck the inside of the right post and was quickly held by the very relieved Houska.
The half team talk was about urging more out of everybody as we had played a good game so far, we just needed to keep going and I was certain the lucky break would come.
The opening exchanges were frantic with neither side keeping control of the ball. Then in the 49th minute Dembele was give the ball and found time to drive wide down the right wing. He then crossed to M’Bappe who turned and shot but blazed the ball over the cross bar.
In the 56th minute we were forced into our first substitution when Dell’ Anna went down under a heavy but fair challenge from Dayot Upamecano. Pipo Calloni was called into action. I also chose to take off the tired David Taddei and swapped him for the spritelier Alessio Vannini.
In the 60th minute Torino received a freekick in the PSG half. Lucerelli crossed high and into the box and Michele Allegra headed the ball down for a team mate to latch on to, PSG Winger Ayoze Rivero managed to get ahead of Apraham Pan and clear the ball from danger.
2 minutes later PSG broke up a Torino attack and showed their devastating pace. Rivero was picked out by a Houska pass. Rivero drove from deep in his own half to the Torino byline. Skipping over a Van Den Engel challenge and beating De Leonardis in a foot race. Rivero crossed the ball into the Torino box where the oncoming Dembele then smashed a volley agonisingly wide of the goal.
In the 73rd minute Torino successfully defended a PSG corner, M’bappe had received the ball short and had his pocket pinched by Vannini who cleared the ball to the more advance Van Den Engel. Van Den Engel then drew a number of PSG players in and then passed forward to Calloni. Pipo Calloni then crossed the ball into the box but failed to pick out an Il Toro teammate.
In the 86th minute deep in the PSG half De Leonardis threw the ball back in to play. Striker Pipo Calloni controlled the ball and played an inside pass to midfielder Ganso. Ganso kept the ball moving with a side pass to Marco Falco. Falco then passed to playmaker Van Den Engel, who looked one way and then passed the other to the fresh legged Federico Donati. Donati then played a ball for Calloni who then got hauled to the ground by a tired Upamecano. The referee blow for a penalty!
With Dell’Anna off the pitch we looked to the cool head of Leroy Van Den Engel to take the penalty. Houska began to move along the goalline in a bid to unnerve the Dutchman. Van Den Engel then took a short run up and showed Houska his eyes. Houska dived to his left and the ball went straight down the middle. Van Den Engel scored! Goooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!
With only a few minutes of “normal” time left on the clock I looked to encourage the team from the sidelines. In the 93rd minute PSG had a freekick just in the Torino half. It was punted long in abid to find anyone in a blue shirt. It did. Rivero, but his effort sailed wide of the Torino goal. The whistle is then blown bring the 90 minutes plus stoppages to a close.
In the interval I tell Michael Mensah to be ready in 5 minutes. Antonio Lucerelli was looking very tired, and it appeared cramp may have set in too. We encouraged the boys to keep battling and the chances would come.
We get the final 30 minutes underway. Instantly we are put on the backfoot. I look to Mensah and give him some final words of encouragement hoping his energy could be the spark that could be the difference between winning, losing and those dreaded penalties.
In the 99th minute an Mbappe freekick is gobbled up by the alert Donnarumma. With little action in that first period of extra time we then move in to the second with a greater element of hope.
In the 110th minute we see a Mina throw in provide a little rest bite before Vannini controls the ball and picks out Van Den Engel who is more central. VDE slides the ball into the path of Mensah who fires a shot, but it clatters PSG defender Vitto Francheschi rather than threatening the goal. The deflection finds its way back to Vannini who speads the ball wide to Mina. Mina crossed the ball into the box and Mensah heads the ball towards the goal but Houska is alert to the danger and saves the attempt.
3 minutes later PSG gain a freekick near the edge of the area. Naby Fernandes strikes a tame direct shot at goal but the attempt sails over the bar.
The match fizzles out of all energy, and the referee blows the final whistle. That match was to be concluded by penalties.
Torino win the toss and elect to kick first. I send Pipo Calloni to take the first, he scores.
PSG send striker Konig to take a kick, he duly scores.
I send Van Den Engel to take the second, he scores!
Houssem Aouar scores PSG’s second.
Michael Mensah scores Torino’s third.
And Alex Grimaldo scores the third for PSG.
I then send defender Apraham Pan to take the fourth. Who powers a shot into the bottom right corner and scored.
Rivero is then sent to take the PSG fourth and hits a tame shot straight at Donnarumma who beats the ball away from goal.
With Donnarumma pulling out a magical save it was then Ganso who was given the opportunity to become a legend. His penalty was coolly taken as he placed it in the bottom right corner. It sails past Houska and the entire section of Ill Granata fans erupt with cheers. The players who are on the pitch and the staff on the side-lines run towards Ganso and pile on him in celebration.
Torino have won the Champions League!
I am off to see if I can lift Ganso aloft in from of the Il Toro fans. Arrivederci! And thank you for reading.
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.
Welcome back to the Filadelphia, where you find players and coaches from the first team down into the youth teams of Torino Football club. Across the three squads that are available in Football Manager we employ the heavy metal tactic that is the WM formation. (Spoken very heavily in previous posts).
This post will update you of the transfer activity during the summer of 2025, it will very briefly brush over the preseason schedule that has been endured and will describe the highlights and low lights of the first team’s schedule so far…. I will also try to open debate over a topic that has risen during this season within my save.
First up…. A little round up of the transfer activity that has surrounded Torino during the summer of 2025.
The major outgoing transfer was the disillusioned Thomas Di Lauro who left the Granata to join Maurizio Sarri’s Manchester City for £42.5m.
We also saw Wolves acquire both Adli and Laurenzi for a combined £10.65m.
The major incoming transfers were the permanent acquisitions of Taddei, Falco and Ganso after their season long loans last season. And after the ongoing saga of Di Lauro wanting out. Gianluca Petrachi was sent to Argentina to sign a player the club had scouted during the last twelve months. After landing in Buenos Aires, Petrachi was sent to speak with River Plate and bring back midfielder Federico Silva. Petrachi handed over £16m and brought the youngster back to Torino. (I am hoping Silva will be a perfect replacement for Di Lauro, but looking at the players strengths, he may be a positional replacement for Barella, as I see Silva being as strong as a Mezzala as he is an Attacking Playmaker).
We also signed French right winger Antonio Lucerelli from Atalanta. Again, DOF, Petrachi would do the deal to sign the next Davide Ginola for £9m upfront rising to £11m. I am hoping Lucarelli will be a similar player in Vannini albeit for down the right rather than the left, as he appears to be a natural inside forward as well as a natural winger. This suits the tactics we employ as we like to see our wingers use their own ability to work out what is best on field whether that be to cut in or to drive out wide.
We have also acquired the loans of former Toro, Alessandro Silvestri from Man City. Raoul Bellanova from Mainz and Goalkeeper Alessandro Plizzari from AC Milan.
Stepping away from the heady business of moving footballers around like cattle or sheep at a market looking for a new farm…. And moving to the performances and result on the pitch.
Preseason on the pitch was primarily about raising the club profile and that involved a tour of the US AAAA! *cue Living in America – James Brown.
The results were mixed due to two factors. It was preseason and the players were not as fit as the tactic demands. And the players used were not always the key first team players that usually play, so less cohesion of normal playing combinations, would have also led to disjointed performances.
Another thing I noticed, but only just now is whoever booked the friendlies (my assistant) didn’t take in the logistics of things. We played LAFC then jetted over to play FC Dallas. Then back to California to play against San Jose. To then jet set over to the east to play Atlanta United.
The journey back then involved landing in the Netherlands to play Sparta of Rotterdam (*cue Rotterdam (or Anywhere) – The Beautiful South).
We then finally headed back to Turin to play Real Madrid. Real are obviously on of the benchmark teams. And Eusebio Di Francesco, who has been Real Manager since 2023, brought his Galaticos of Matthijs de Ligt, Raphael Varane, Kai Havertz, Rodrygo Goes, Christian Pavon and new gen Rade Drndarevic (who looks like a Serbian Zlatan Ibrahimovic on growth steroids). Needless to say, this looked like it would be a stiff test.
However, we plumped for a mix of second-string players and youngsters to feature in this fixture in a bid to not over burden the first team with the immanent European Super Cup fixture against Champions League winners……. Real Madrid. The aim of this idea was to not give Real a heads up of how we would line up against them in the important fixture and to give a few promising youngsters the chance to impress against better opposition.
The strength of Real’s quality showed from the off. And they had drawn a two-goal lead within 30 minutes. Drndarevic bulldozing his way through the Il Toro defence with ease in the 10th minute to score the opener and Rodrygo scoring with a wonder shot from outside the area 20 minutes later. We eventually showed some metal when Dell’Anna scored with a thunderous shot on the stroke of half time. The second half was very disjointed with both sides making numerous changes to the lineups. We lost 2-1 in a match that provided lost of food for thought.
Seven days later both teams were at it again. This time with a little more at stake. The Helsingin OlimpiaStadion would host the 2025 European Super Cup. The two teams lined up with their strongest teams available. In our case we were short of a quality right back after De Leonardis had been injured since the opening fixture of preseason. Zandolini and youth starlet Caligara were not at the level to cope against the quality of teams like Real Madrid. Or were they? Short and only answer to this is no. No, they are/were not. Zandolini had an awful game as I chose his slight experience over the younger Caligara. I wish I had gone with my instinct as Caligara did come on in the second half to have a much better performance. Zandolini made the mistake that left space for Rodrygo to score the opening goal in the 17th minute. We then exchanged chances throughout the first half which left the Finnish crowd wanting more. The second half started and with the boys pumped with fighting words to stimulate passion. Within seconds of kicking of new signing Argentine Federico Silva then stuck a two footed challenge on Matteo Kovacic right under the nose of the referee. This was a straight red. And this left Il Toro with a mountain to climb. I made the snap decision to put Nico Barella on for left winger David Taddei. The lopsided nature of our revised formation would mean captain Santiago Mina would be more exposed due to no cover directly in front of him. To be fair Real did not expose us at all. However, they did manage to score a second in the 71st minute through a passage of play that put my belief to bed when a cross field ball found Pavon on the right wing for him to cross the ball into the box on a plate for man giant Drndarevic to head home Real’s second. With the bit between our teeth we then sort about reducing the deficit. Nico Barella hit a speculative shot for the ball to strike De Ligt and go past the hapless Courtious on the 75th minute. With that hope we started to turn the screw and at one point I thought we were going to through the whole kitchen at Real rather than just the sink! But like may FM gamers will know, when the chips are down the pieces don’t quite work and the result just somehow passes you by. Real won 2-1 for a second week in a row. Silva was given a roasting and a fine of a week’s wages. (He won’t be doing that again in a hurry!)
With the stutter to our 2025/26 campaign I then sort to plug a few gaps. Hence why we have loaned in Bellanova, a right back who had only been in Germany for the previous season. The former Milan youngster will not just provide cover for De Leonardis but I think he will also provide the needed competition for the shirt. The issue at this position is due to Diogo Dalot’s decision to want more money for having a decent season in the last campaign. I refused as I felt he needed to provide more consistency this season to warrant the wage increase. Dalot was not happy with my actions and caused a stir in the dressing room. I fought the fire in the dressing room by addressing the squad and said that Diogo needed to prove he was worth the wage increase he wanted rather than having a hissy fit. The squad backed my words, and Diogo then went in a proper grump. So, I felt a move out would help the lad. He is now on loan at AC Milan for the season. The other plug was the loan in from AC Milan. Alessandro Plizzari. A goalkeeper who has bags of potential even at the ripe age of 25. The idea behind this move was to give first choice Pasotti a good back up after Fruchtl had decided he wanted first team football. Fruchtl is now on loan at Young Boys in Switzerland for the season.
The first game of the new Serie A season would see Torino parade the trophy at the Olimpico Grande Torino. The opener was against Frosinone. Once the Trophy had been placed on its stand, the players had lined up in a row on the pitch, the national anthem played. The referee’s whistle blew and the pressure of being champions was now on.
Pressure! What Pressure? Dell’Anna would open the scoring after 7 minutes. He scored a well hit penalty after being fouled in the box. Van Den Engel scored the second on the 40th minute. And Dell’Anna, Silvestri and Ganso would all score in the second half to see for a comprehensive 5-0 win.
Match day two would see Il Toro drop points after struggling to get going against a stubborn Udinese. The match would end 0-0. Match day three would round August off and it would see another 5-0 victory for the Granata. Midfield Veteran Daniele Baselli would steal the headlines by scoring a brace, Dell’Anna, Vannini and Van den Engel would also contribute to the scoreline.
Van den Engel’s goal would also show a highlight in what became a change in tactic due to fearing second yellow cards to the fullbacks. We switched to a back two with three in DM as a little experiment. Van Den Engel’s goal would show great patience within the team, along with fantastic build up to score a brilliant team goal.
There was then the international break in early September which would mean we would cram five fixtures into fifteen days. Serie A match day four would see a plucky Carpi visit the Olimpico Grande Torino. I would make not just wholesale changes to the line-up but also a slight tweak to the formation. In adopting three centre backs in the defence rather than playing with fullbacks and one centreback. Dell’Anna and Van Den Engel would both score to forge a 2-0 lead in the opening twenty minutes. The experiment felt like it was a success. But hang on a minute this is FM. FM doesn’t let you have all your own way! Leandro Fernandes scored for the visitors on 32 minutes, to give use something to think about for halftime. Without making drastic changes we went into the second half with an expectation to see off the game. Van Den Engel and Dell’Anna would do just that by both scoring midway through the half. But then Il Toro took their foot of the pedal and the momentum swung. Carpi scored in the 70th minute through an Alessandrini goal, which saw a wide eyed Alessandrini capitalise on a Romagna mistake. The heightened the Carpi side’s confidence, as they then scored another through Elia Petrelli on the 84th minute to cause a lot of panic on the Granata bench. We swiftly swapped the tactic back to the normal two full backs and one centre back combination an saw out the game to record a 4-3 victory.
Our next match would see us enter Europe again. We were drawn into group F in the European Champions League with Celtic (who had finished second to Rangers last season), Bayer Leverkusen (who had finished third in the Bundesliga behind Bayern and Dortmund respectively) and West Ham Utd (who had finished second in the Premier League behind Manchester United). The first match was a home match against Celtic. We dominated the match but missed our first clear cut chance when Dell’Anna missed a penalty in the 24th minute. Left winger Alessio Vannini would break the duck by slotting home in the 36th minute. To then double our lead five minutes later. Van den Engel would score on the 54th minute to cement our lead for Ganso to hit a wonderful freekick in the 60th minute to seal a 4-0 victory.
Match day five and six in Serie A would see two successive 3-1 wins for Il Toro. The first a comfortable home win against Fiorentina, the second was a comfortable away match against Bologna.
The last match of the month was the Champions League group match against West Ham Utd in London. Another return to my former team. This match was dubbed a grudge match in the media due to Torino beating West Ham last season in the Europa League quarter finals. A packed London Stadium would see a battling match between two similarly matched teams. Torino were without star forward Massimo Dell’Anna due to a stubbing a toe whilst getting out of the showers at the Filadelphia. We went with Davide Benazzi as his replacement and the 17 yr old did not disappoint. He scored the opening goal through some wonderful individual play to create some space for himself. West Ham did equalise less than 10 minutes later through Polish striker Daniel Tabiszewski. The match would end 1-1.
October would then start with a Battle Royale at the summit of Serie against Inter. Inter went into this match in hot form, they had won every match in Serie A so far. To add more to Inter’s favour the match is at the Giuseppe Meazza.
We started the match unusually cautious. And this gave Inter confidence from the Kick-off. This confidence led to Argentine striker Diego Charmorro to open the scoring through a goal on the break. Milan Skriniar then doubled Inter’s lead in the 28th minute with a close-range header from a corner.
2-0 down in under 30 minutes. This suddenly felt like we had not quite got things right for this match and that changes were required to prevent a landslide. The only change I make is to the mentality. We switched from cautious to balanced. And within 10 minutes we claw a goal back through star man Dell’Anna. Half time gave me time to read the riot act to some and put an arm around others along with swapping Nico Barella for veteran Baselli. Barella had got himself very wound up during the first 45 mins. I figured we needed a full XI to get anything out of this match. But like all big matches with a lot of hype the second half became a damp squib. Each team drawing foul after foul to take any momentum out of the match. Inter would take the spoils and cement a lead at the top of the table. Torino were left with more line up questions of whether such a young squad could cope with the pressure of retaining the scudetto.
The next match would be after the international break. Which would bring Lazio to the Olimpico Grande Torino. The result was just what we need to shake of the malaise of losing to Inter. We won 3-0 in a very convincing performance from the whole team.
Champions League Match day three saw Il Toro travel to Leverkusen. This match would see FM’s Match Engine come to the fore. The result was 2-2 in a match that somehow, we drew. I say that the Match Engine came to the fore and the reason behind this is that Leverkusen would score both of their goals immediately after we had scored ours. After seeing this happened in the after the first goal, I ensured I got a side-line shout out demanding focus. And low and behold the same thing happened after our second goal.
Match day nine and ten in Serie A would see a tight and typically Italian 0-0 draw against Milan and then a 2-0 win against Chievo. The low light and highlight to both matches were the injury to summer signing Rico Silva, with the emergence of Gianmarco Riitano and Federico Donati. The former had been bought from Lazio in the summer of 2024 and had been given odd chances to gain first team experience. The latter was also from the Under 18’s and was someone who I had given first team game time during preseason.
November started with a bang. The opening fixture of the month was Serie A’s matchday 11 a home match against struggling Lecce. I chose to rest key players and I also looked to give some of the club’s young players a game. In came central defender Massimo Mancino, Defensive midfielder Filippo Lanave and midfield dynamo Federico Donati. The latter was given his starting debut. In the 8th minute Il Toro were rewarded for the faith. When Donati scored his first goal for the club, a turn and first time shot just near the penalty spot. Right winger Michael Mensah then doubled our lead in the 36th minute. And four minutes later Donati found himself around the penalty spot again. A cross by right fullback De Leonardis was put on a plate for Donati to claim his second of the match. The second half became an exhibition match where Il Toro’s youngsters were taking pot shots at the Lecce goal but this time with little reward. In the 76th minute Lecce would score with their only shot on target during the match through left winger Sebastiano Esposito. 12 minutes later Torino were awarded a penalty due to a push in Santiago Mina during a corner. Debutant Donati was given the kick in a bid to give the boy his hattrick. He coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net to make the score 4-1. Then in the dying embers of the match Donati was given another opportunity. This time he received the ball of fellow youngster Pacilli and decided to just thunder a strike at goal from 30 yards out! GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLL! Wow! Four goals from the boy on his starting debut for the club. We won 5-1.
Donati’s Fourth. Nice!
I was left in a buoyant mood over the future of the club after seeing a few youngsters shine for the first team.
Next was Champions League match day four. The home match against Leverkusen. I went back to the key members of the squad starting over the kids, but I did reward Mensah and Donati starting places after such great performances against Lecce. We wrapped up the match in the opening 10 minutes. Dell’Anna scored a brace inside the first 5 minutes. And 5 minutes later wonder boy Donati would hit a strong shot from just inside the penalty area that would prove too hot to hand for the Leverkusen keeper. The second half would see Nico Barella extend our lead in the 50th minute. And two minutes later Leverkusen didn’t help their cause by scoring an own goal. We went on to see out the match and win 5-0.
Serie A match day 12 and 13 saw Il Toro drop more points to Inter through a 1-1 draw against Sampdoria and somehow squeeze past potential banana skin Cagliari in a 1-0 home win.
Our last match of the month saw us travel to Celtic park to play Celtic. The atmosphere was electric which may have led to the slow start. Michele Allegra opened the scoring of Il Toro in the 28th minute. In the 40th minute Celtic would find themselves a man down due to reckless challenge by Matias Vecino on Allegra. But it was the Scots that found themselves buoyed by their deficit. When just after the break winger Lewis Morgan hit a speculative shot at goal to see the ball float past Pasotti. Torino would then put the bit between their teeth and start carving chance after chance. Lucerelli then scored in the 64th minute and Van den Engel would extend Il Toro’s lead. The match ended 3-1. The win would put Torino top of the group and see them qualify for the 1st knock out round with one match left to play in the group stage.
Rather than heading into December to evenly round the progress off I will leave the results update right there. We are currently third in Serie A six points behind leaders Inter albeit with a game in hand. Top of group F in the Champions League with qualification to the next round in the bag. And the Copa Italia is yet to see us start.
I would like to leave this post with the query, Is 17 yrs old too young to place significant responsibility upon a player? Join me next time to find out whether Donati can shine like a diamond or whether the rather old looking 21 yr old Rico Silva can up his game to make the Mezzala role his own!
Arrivederci for now!
After a cup of coffee (Lavazza, of course!) We are back with another update of our season 2014/25. The last three posts have updated you from Preseason to the end of October, A tactical nuance of the WM formation we have used since day one with Torino, and the last update that took us from November 2024 to the end of January 2025.
The disappointment of falling short for the second time against Napoli this season had taken it toll, hence the stiff coffee. This post will hopefully wrap the season up…..
Our first match in February was an away match against Bologna, just what we needed to shake our TIM Cup hangover out of our system. Teenaged starlet Michael Mensah opened the scoring in the very first minute, with Dell’Anna and a Donis own goal ensuring we won with a convincing score line. 3-0.
Next up was our long-awaited trip to Greece. To play Olympiakos in the 1st knockout round of UEFA’s Europa League, this would be our first match of this competition, we had come third in our group during the Champions League, and this was our reward for battling so hard in that competition. The build up ahead of the match was massive. In fact, the hype goes back to the previous update. However, like all hypes the match itself was a flat pancake. We lined up with a strong team but for some strange reason the lads had clearly put their minds set on the beach rather than the pitch. We struggled to get going and in the 17th minute the only goal of the game was scored. Diogo Dalot scored from close range…..to give Olympiakos the advantage. Rightback Santiago Arias whipped in a deep cross into our box and Left winger Brian Mansilla almost got on the end of it. Dalot managed to beat Mansilla to the ball unfortunately he just headed the ball into the back of our net rather than out for a corner.
I showed great disappointment after the match, assertively telling the boys that the performance I had just seen was not good enough. Everyone took my words in the flight home was a quiet one.
The next match was at home to Atalanta in the league, I dropped Dalot after a very poor performance and reinstated De Leonardis to right back. The team barely got out of second gear as we opened the scoring through Di Lauro in the eighth minute. Five minutes later Dell’Anna scored a penalty to put us 2-0 up. We then cruised the rest of the match to see out the match.
Could that win help with the second leg of the Europa League tie against Olympiakos? It may well have done. But so, could the capacity crowd at the Olimpico Grande Torino. We went into the match needing a big performance from key players. We got a big performance from most of the team. We won 4-0. Ganso, Barella, Van den Engel and Taddei all scoring to take the Il Toro through to the next round.
We then rounded the month off with two home victories. A 3-1 win against Fiorentina and then a 5-0 win against Empoli.
March would arrive with an element of confusion. More due to the lack of fixtures than anything else. My confusion must have rubbed off on to the team as we started March with a stutter. The Olimpico in Roma saw us that a 2-0 lead until the 89th minute. Roma’s leading marksman Antonio Russo scored a screamer from inside the 18yrd box. Then after a La Torre mistake in the 94th minute, Roma would break quickly again. This time Russo would hold the ball up and be the provider for Lucas Torreira to score the equaliser. 2-2.
The next Thursday would see us compete in the second round for the Europa League. The first leg was at the Anoeta, the home of Real Sociedad. We were still shell shock ed from the weekend. Which showed as veteran midfielder Axel Witsel scored a close-range header from a corner. We then took the game to Sociedad. But we didn’t get a breakthrough until the 73rd minute. Daniele Baselli whipped in a cross from a freekick, Apraham Pan was then pushed in the box. Which gave the Russian referee the chance to give a penalty. Baselli then slotted home the resulting penalty to put the tie back in our grasp for the second leg. 1-1.
Our very next match was the second leg tie against Real Sociedad. And this match started just like the first. With Sociedad scoring the first. A long diagonal ball was played to our left back area, Luca Germoni failed to clear or claim the ball resulting in a cross from Zeracho placing the ball in the box for Martial to have a shot at goal. Pasotti saved the first attempt but spilled the ball into the path of Martial to have a second bite of the cherry….He duly scored. We then set about keeping the ball, initially in safe areas then eventual higher up the pitch. In the second half after successfully defending a corner we then broke in to attack with venom. Mina cleared the ball left as far as the halfway line. Dell’Anna chased and then drove with the ball towards the byline. He crossed for Van den Engel, who calmly chested the ball down to then rifle a shot past Rulli. The tie was now even stevens once again. On the 82 minute we then pressed Sociedad who were playing a little keep ball at the back. Dell’Anna’s presence upsetting Fuentes in the Sociedad defence. Barella’s ball would see Dell’Anna act as the perfect targetman. who absorbed the ball and the advancing pressure of the Sociedad defence to find a gap and play a lovely weighted ball for Vannini. Alessio, not one to shy away from making headlines duly slotted home to push the tie in Torino’s favour. We would see out the remaining ten minutes and go through to the quarter finals.
The final fixture of march would see a changed line up and a first team starting debut for Gianmarco Riitano. A 16-year-old midfielder who had been snapped up from Lazio during the summer transfer activity in 2024. DoF Petrachi had spent £4m on the boy who has bags of potential. We played Sampdoria away and won 4-1. Riitano scoring the third and opening his Torino account.
April would start in the Europa League, back in my old stomping ground. The London Stadium, the home of West Ham Utd. The home crowd were welcoming, Paulo Fonseca the new West Ham manager, was less so. The match was a captivating affair. With neither side really showing their true colours in front of goal. That is until the 75th minute when centre back Jonathon Panzo launched a through ball long down there left. Jon Davies collected the ball and drove to the box before unleashing a powerful shot past Pasotti. The match ended with no further fizz and the result was 1-0 to West Ham.
Milan were our next fixture. And a few faces that were forced to sit out the West Ham match returned. Dell’Anna and Mensah were the notable inclusions. The later scoring along side Nico Barella and Van Den Engel. For Il Toro to win 3-0.
The return leg vs West Ham Utd was next. We absolutely dominated the match, producing more passes than what we would normally. But it would take until the 90th minutes for Tomy Di Lauro to score the only goal of the match. This would level the tie on aggregate and force extra time. Nothing was concluded in extra time which meant another course of the dreaded penalties.
Our first two takers would miss their attempts (Dell’Anna and Taddei), which meant we were staring at the face of defeat before Christian Fruchtl stepped up and saved West Ham’s fourth penalty. We would go on to score four penalties with Fruchtl saving three on the bounce to take Il Toro through to the Semi Finals.
Fruchtl’s three saves and Pan’s winner
Understandably the next two games went with very little pomp due to the exploits of penalties. We would draw away to Palermo and Carpi. 2-2 and 1-1 respectively.
Our last match of the month would see Udinese visit the Olimpico Grande Torino. We were more like our dominant self, by having a host of chances, restricting the opposition to nothing and winning 3-0. With Dell’Anna, Van den Engel and Taddei scoring and Mensah acting main provider.
May would then see a massive ten fixtures in twenty-eight days.
The first match was held on a Thursday at a wet Nuevo Mestalla. Where we would play the first leg of the Semi final tie of the Europa League against Valencia. The opening goal would come from Valencia after forcing Torino veteran Baselli in to mistake near the halfway line. There, Soler passed forward to the advancing Rodrigo, who crossed the ball into space for Loro to pounce and score. Loro would put away an unchallenged shot to give the Spanish side the lead.
I made a big change at half time and replace Baselli with Laurenzi. I also let rip in the dressing room to get a reaction out of the team.
We start to improve as a team in the second half. Following a foul on Mensah, Ganso stepped up to take the resulting freekick. He duly smacked the ball into the back of the net to pull Il Toro back into the tie and resurrect some life into the Torino team.
Four minutes later Santiago Mina scored a close-range header courtesy of a Van Den Engel corner. We would go on to pepper the fragile Valencia defence with attacks, but the match ended 2-1.
Our next match would be Udinese again in Serie A. I can only guess the schedulers forgot to add Udinese to our list then panicked and thought no-one would notice two matches on the bounce in April and May. Needless to say, we won again. This time we won 3-1. Di Lauro and a Dell’Anna brace making the difference.
The second leg match against Valencia was next. In short, we won 2-0. Mensah and Dell’Anna scoring. We secured a date with destiny…. The chance to win a major European Trophy… Our reward would be a final against Villareal, to be played at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille, France.
With the final of the UEFA Europa League final etched into our schedule we could now focus solely on securing the league title. We had six games left and we were at one moment in the season twenty points clear but then somehow, we had our lead cut to eleven points.
We won four, drew one and lost one in our final run in. For me the important thing was to seal the title as soon as possible. We drew against Chievo in a match that showed our fatigue following our European adventures. The next match was a home game against Napoli. We won 2-0 my dynamic duo of Dell’Anna and Mensah scoring the goals again. News came through that Juventus had drawn at the San Siro. This news would mean that we had secured the Serie A title.
Two days later we played Cagliari away. And we lost 1-0. I’ll be honest I expected as much as they team looked tired after celebrating hard during the previous few days.
After a quick rallying call for focus we then won our last three league matches. First was a 1-0 win against Inter, then a huge 3-1 home win against Juventus and finally a 2-0 win against Lazio.
Our main aim had been met, by beating our nearest rivals to the Serie A title. As you can see we won it pretty convincingly in the end as Juventus went off the boil and only collected six points from their final six matches. The won one, drew three and lost two.
Our final league match was only a few days before the Europa League Final. This gave us just a few days to prepare but bearing in mind I had shuffled the pack quite a bit in the final three matches we had a fairly fit and healthy squad to choose from for the final.
We kicked off and looked to impose ourselves into the game from the off with a swift attack down the right which lead to Mensah having the first shot of the game. We then pressed further and in the 9th minute Mina had a header cleared off the line following a corner, the clearance was not the best as it fell for Dell’Anna who scuffed his shot wide.
In the 13th minute Dell’Anna would then create a moment. He drove with the ball centrally after receiving it off Dalot from a throw in, he passed to Di Lauro but continued his run in to the box. Di Lauro passed to his left and found Vannini, who who take up the space created by Dell’Anna’s run and slot home a curling shot. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALL!!!! 1-0.
Two minutes later we broke a Villareal attack on our left. Di Lauro passed forward to Dell Anna, who was still in our own half. Dell’Anna did the rest. He galloped forward with strength and purpose. His run stopped near the penalty box only to fire a thunderbolt of a strike at goal. GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAALL!!!!!!!!! 2-0
The match then began to show life for both teams. In the 21st minute our gamble of playing Dell’Anna crumbled, he had to come off due to a lower leg injury. I sent youngster Davide Benazzi on as his replacement. Then, in the 24th minute Villareal played some short passes near the halfway line, for David Carmona to eventually find some confidence to drive down the right and cross the ball into the six-yard box. Where left winger Ivan Munoz was on hand to head the ball into the goal. (GOAL!) 2-1.
Just before halftime Villareal tried to mount an attack down their left for the ball to fizzle to Aphram Pan. Who then played a forward pass to Ganso. Ganso then played short ball top Van Den Engel.Our playmaker then dinked it back to Falco, who passed out wide to Mensah. Mensah then made some yards down our right to then pass the ball square to Van Den Engel. VDE then dribbled to the edge of the box before laying off to Vannini. Vannini then hit a first time shot that curled into the top right-hand corner of the goal. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!!! (3-1).
Half Time then came, and we gave some words of encouragement. The second half saw a lot of chances go begging for Torino. VDE hit the post with a tame effort and Benazzi had a number of chances stray wide.
In the 80th minute we pressed but the Villareal looked to break with speed through the centre of the pitch. Grgic would pick the ball up from the hallway line to dink a chipped pass to Domingo. Domingo was in acres of space and hit a firm shot goalwards that fizzed past Pasotti. (Goal). 3-2
We see the remaining ten minutes plus additional time out to only bloody win the Europa League!
Thank you for following this season. I will update you next once I have calmed down….
Ciao for now!