Torino have gained a credible four points from their first two matches back in Serie A following a three-year absence, but now face a much sterner test with the visit of Inter Milan to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday evening (7.45pm, BST).
Promoted in second place behind Pescara, Torino have made a much better start to life in the top flight than the Serie B winners, keeping clean sheets in both matches. That included a rousing 3-0 victory over Pescara themselves last time.
Whereas Pescara’s squad was gutted upon promotion, Torino’s has remained stable. The likes of Italian international defender Angelo Ogbonna, young Serbian midfielder Alen Stevanovic and experienced striker Rolando Bianchi remain at the club.
Coach Giampiero Ventura is also still on board and has made some solid signings in the off-season, including Roma midfielder Matteo Brighi, a scorer against Pescara.
Ogbonna was part of a defence that conceded just 28 goals in 42 matches during Torino’s promotion campaign and judging by their start to this season, the quality of their defending will be the pillar upon which survival hopes are pinned. They are yet to allow a single shot on target in their two matches to date.
At the other end of the pitch, the three goals Torino mustered against Pescara already looks likely to be an anomaly, with little to suggest than any of their forwards will break into double figures this season. Last season 15 of their 24 victories (62.5%) came by a single goal, so high scoring wins are likely to be a rare occurrence.
Torino will certainly not play as openly against Inter Milan as Pescara did on the opening day of the season. On that occasion Inter ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, raising expectations for an improved campaign following last year’s disappointing sixth place finish.
Inter were brought back down to earth by a 3-1 home defeat to Roma in the last round of matches, unable to keep pace with their opponents in a frantic second half that left coach Andrea Stramaccioni with much to ponder over the course of the international break.
Stramaccioni carries the air of an ambitious young executive who feels a need to micro-manage every minute detail in a bid to solidify his authority. His Inter side sometimes look like they are desperate to fulfil his exact instructions rather than play their natural game.
His 4-3-2-1 formation requires the side midfielders to be very aware of covering the forward runs of the full-backs, lessening the offensive impact of a player like Fredy Guarin, more comfortable operating in a freer role.
In certain matches the offensive clout of Antonio Cassano (or Rodrigo Palacio), Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder will be sufficient to unlock defences and provide the goals that will see Inter take three points. But against defensively solid teams, such as Torino, it is tempting to think that Stramaccioni’s team may come up short.
Torino have lost to Inter in all of their last eight meetings at the Stadio Olimpico and 13 times in the last 18 matches between the teams at all venues. Torino’s last victory came way back in February 1994, so history certainly is not on the side of the Sunday’s hosts, although the historical results are due more to Inter having a significantly better team over the years than any psychological hang-up on Torino’s part.
On paper, Inter again have the better personnel, but there is a determination and solidity to this Torino side that has rarely been seen in their recent ventures into the top flight. Inter also had a far greater number of players on international duty in midweek – many in South America – and therefore may not be at their physical peak.