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How Joe Hart is helping Torino move out of Juventus’ shadow​

Can England number one Joe Hart help Torino to a top three finish?

Manchester City fans may well have been bemused by Joe Hart’s recent inspired performance as England number one, considering new gaffer Pep Guardiola has shipped the stopper off on loan to Italian team Torino for the season.

Also excelling in Serie A, aside from his trio of terrific stops to save the Three Lions’ skin against Slovenia, Hart is proving he is once again a pair of safe hands.

Joe Hart can help Torino's Serie A odds for a top three finish.

Joe Hart can help Torino’s Serie A odds for a top three finish.

What, many asked upon the goalie’s switch to the Granata, was the point in taking a perceived step down to a midtable team in Turin, who have long lingered deep in the shadow of elite noisy neighbours Juventus?

What could the keeper possibly achieve in Italy that he couldn’t fighting for a spot at City, apart from increased game time to supposedly keep him in contention for England? As it turns out, quite a lot actually.

This term could be revolutionary for Piedmont team Torino, also known as ‘I Granata’ (the Maroons) and ‘Il Toro’ (the Bull).

Torino have a 'Grande' history.

Torino have a ‘Grande’ history.

Facing the prospect of fierce Derby della Mole foes Juve surpassing their jointly held record of five successive Italian top-tier titles, with a sixth Scudetti looking likely to land in the black and white half of Turin this season, Torino finally have their own chance for success.

Currently tipped with Coral at 25/1 there are Torino Serie A odds for a top three finish and a chance at Champions League football, as the Bull look set for a charge at European places.

Sat 11th but just two points behind richer Roma in third and seven off title favourites the Old Lady, Torino have their best chance in years to emerge out of their rivals’ shadow – with Hart’s help.

Grande Torino to come again?

Post protectors can oft be overlooked – but a top goalie can preserve vital points for their club, and security between the sticks is what held the men in maroon back last season.

Giampiero Ventura’s guys conceded 55 in the league, scoring only 52 to leave them with a negative goal difference. But, though many expected the long-standing gaffer’s exit to take over the Italian national team would neutralise the Bull – controversial coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s arrival appears to have revived the Alpine outfit instead.

Torino tactician Sinisa Mihajlovic has a point to prove.

Torino tactician Sinisa Mihajlovic has a point to prove.

Given the boot by AC Milan, the former Serbia set-piece specialist seems to be thriving on rattling the Rossoneri, who his less decorated side sit just under in the league table.

Seeking to solve Torino’s obvious defensive frailties, not helped by decimated ranks after star centre half Kamil Glik’s summer switch to Monaco among others, following Matteo Darmian’s departure for Manchester United the year before, Mihajlovic has made headway.

There was no mistaking the celebrations on the streets of Turin, as Torino fans (and tabloids) lauded the swoop for Hart, who received a hero’s welcome.

Hart has been in brilliant form for both country and loan club.

Hart has been in brilliant form for both country and loan club.

Who would have thought the northern Italian club could attract the England number one? The coup has done more than just give Torino the boost of a top class keeper, also propelling this once great team back into the minds of football fans across the globe.

Could the Bull finally be about to rise again? Much like Manchester United, a plane crash is tightly interwoven with Torino’s disappointments and successes both past and present.

In their golden era, the so-called Grande Torino were more than a match for Juventus – having claimed five of their seven total top-flight trophies successively in the late 40s and being known, just as Juve are now, for providing the backbone of the Italian national team.

Torino can aim for European places again.

Torino can aim for European places again.

Hauntingly, the 1949 plane crash meant that legendary Torino team’s legacy came to an end before its time and, bar one more scudetto in 1976, the Bull have failed to hit those heights since.

The Bull boast Hart

A coup Hart’s signing may be, but don’t expect Torino to start pulling in all the hollywood names. The Alpine side have a transfer policy based on value and promoting youth – a clear nod and parallel to that beloved Grande Torino team of the 40s.

Hart is a good start, however, and is currently an authoritative voice from the back – and crucial component in Mihajlovic’s spine.

It’s not often an English goalie grabs the headlines for any reason but an error, and especially not abroad. But, Hart has quickly become a hero in Piedmont after joining the far from fashionable Serie A side.

Hart has a new lease of life in Italy.

Hart has a new lease of life in Italy.

Following a debut disaster against Atalanta, as critical eyes watched closely, Hart displayed great mental resolve to bounce back from first day nerves, and the fans have backed him all the way.

So far this season, Hart has kept six clean sheets in nine games, including one for the Sky Blues and three for England – form that may make Guardiola blush. The England goalie is 3/1 to next shut out Palermo.

That confidence will be needed to navigate what is expected to be a close fight for European places in the Italian top-flight, and though they now have a top class stopper to rival the bigger sides – Torino need more than a star holding the gloves.

Torino challenging Juve for Italian talent

Luckily for Mihajlovic’s men in maroon, they have plenty to be excited about in attack too. Games are no longer a case of battening down the hatches, as shown by back-to-back victories against Roma and Fiorentina – huge scalps for the Bull.

Torino boast a top crop of young Italian talent, including midfielder Marco Benassi.

Torino boast a top crop of young Italian talent, including midfielder Marco Benassi.

It is the form of forwards Andrea Belotti and Iago Falque that has also enabled Torino to pinch those points from top three rivals.

Belotti, a 22-year-old pinched from next opponents Palermo for relative peanuts and Falque, a former Spurs player on loan from rivals Roma, just can’t stop scoring.

Both attackers are currently on rampant streaks of form, with ‘The Rooster’ Belotti having bagged five goals so far and Falque four, and rank in the top 10 Serie A top scorers.

Goal thirsty Belotti in particular is the Bull’s great hope, and arguably represents a shift in the future of the Italian national team.

Torino’'s Andrea Belotti is in Italy star of the future.

Torino’’s Andrea Belotti is an Italy star of the future.

Juventus currently supply six senior Azzurri stars, but Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci represent a vintage that will soon reach its sell-by date.

Torino (even-money to next beat Palermo) meanwhile, possess most promising young poacher Belotti and also Azzurri under-21 captain and midfielder Marco Benassi, who is a crucial influence for the Bull. Davide Zappacosta, Antonio Barreca and Mattia Aramu are also other young Italian names to look out for.

The Bull's rivalry with Juventus is fierce.

The Bull’s rivalry with Juventus is fierce.

Juve, of course, do have Azzurri prospects Daniele Rugani and Stefano Sturaro in their ranks, but they are struggling to dislodge the old guard while Benassi and Belotti continue to grow with game time.

Do the Old Lady now represent Italy’s past and bitter rivals Torino the future? It is surely going to be an exciting tussle in the Turin derby this term. So, with Hart in net and the Bull’s forwards in form, take our Torino Serie A odds of 25/1 for a top three finish.

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