As Inter rolls through the second half of the season, next up in line to try to slow the Nerrazurri train down is Andrea Belotti and Torino. We checked in with Rob Gillman to see how La Granata are faring so far and what to expect from Davide Nicola’s men Sunday.
Rob is the author of From Serie B to Bilbao: An in-depth look at Giampiero Ventura’s five-year reign as Torino coach, which you can buy on Amazon as an e-book here.
Q: It seems Andrea Belotti has been in the news during every transfer window in the last couple of years and yet he’s still on Torino. How has Urbano Cairo been able to keep hold of him? What would it take for him to leave?
A: With Andrea Belotti’s contract expiring in 2022, I think most Toro fans have finally accepted that their captain will soon be leaving the club - and possibly even as soon as the summer. Belotti has managed to stay so long for a number of reasons really. Firstly, Urbano Cairo’s high release clause and valuation of the player has put off many potential suitors. Secondly, a sense of loyalty from the player and I truly believe if Toro had been a bit more successful this season and competed for the Top 10, Belotti would have signed a contract extension. However, after another struggle with relegation this season, I don’t think anyone could begrudge him moving on for a new challenge.
Q: Torino was one of several clubs to change coaches mid season, axing Marco Giampaolo in favor of Davide Nicola. What were Giampaolo’s major shortcomings? Has Nicola been able to point the Granata towards safety?
A: Giampaolo was not entirely to blame for his failure this season, as he was severely let down in the summer transfer window. In an attempt to implement a more possession based game, Giampaolo’s style of play desperately needed a ‘regista’ and a ‘trequartista’ but these players failed to arrive. Giampaolo did try and adapt with the players he already had in squad, but it was never convincing.
Nicola has brought a bit more resilience to the side, although with a number of players being unavailable for selection at the weekend against Crotone due to COVID-19, this undoubtedly contributed to his first defeat as Toro coach.
Q: What are Torino’s biggest strengths that could lead to an upset against Inter?
A: Obviously Belotti is Torino’s biggest strength but the emergence of young wing back Wilfried Singo has also been one of the few plus points this season and he earned a penalty for the Granata in the reverse fixture. Toro can also be quite threatening from set pieces, and Brazilian centre back Bremer has already scored four times this season. Unfortunately, all three of these players missed the defeat against Crotone due to positive COVID tests, so it remains to be seen whether they will be available for selection.
Q: On the flip side, where do La Granata really struggle?
A: Toro have struggled in midfield for a number of years and although the signing of Rolando Mandragora has gone some way to improving this – they still struggle to dominate that area of the pitch. Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, has also underperformed so far this season and made a number of costly errors.
Q: And lastly, what’s your score prediction for Sunday?
A: Unfortunately I can’t see Toro picking up what would be a much needed victory with Inter’s current form, seemingly putting them on course for the Scudetto. However, I’ll go for an optimistic 1-1 draw.
A big thanks to Rob for his time. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter here!