por A-24, em 16.03.10
Recent seasons have been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for Juventus fans. Winners of two consecutive Serie A titles, before being stripped of their crown and demoted to Serie B, La Vecchia Signora then won promotion at the first attempt before finishing third on their top-flight return last season.
Juve, however, are currently stagnating in 12th spot, already seven points behind leaders Inter at this early stage. Faring even worse are city rivals Torino, struggling against the tide in 17th place, one above the drop zone, having won just one and lost four of their seven matches so far - three of them at home.
Adding a further element of uncertainty to this weekend's Turin derby is the injury-ravaged condition of both squads. Juve supremo Claudio Ranieri will have to do without up to seven first-choice players, including Gianluigi Buffon, David Trezeguet, Mauro Camoranesi and Christian Poulsen. Over in the Torino camp, coach Gianni de Blasi cannot call on key men Matteo Sereni, Eugenio Corini, Dominique Malonga and Francesco Pratali.
Despite this flurry of injury-related absentees, both teams know that a win on Saturday in the Stadio Olimpico could help shape the course of their season. The Old Lady are targeting an improvement in their domestic form on the back of Tuesday's impressive 2-1 UEFA Champions League win over Real Madrid, while Il Toro are desperate to avoid being sucked deeper into the relegation mire.
As far as the record books are concerned, it is Juventus who have the upper hand on their near neighbours, having won 71, drawn 54 and lost 55 of their 179 matches. In terms of top-flight action their dominance is even clearer, 57 of those wins, 41 draws and just 34 defeats coming in Serie A.
Statistics aside, this derby clash never fails to ignite passions within the northern Italian city, the teams' rivalry based on a long-standing class divide summed up neatly by the words of Turin native Mario Soldati. According to the celebrated novelist and film director, Juventus were "the team of gentlemen, industrial pioneers, Jesuits, conservatives and the wealthy bourgeois" while Torino were "the team of the working class, migrant workers from the provinces or neighbouring countries, the lower middle-class and the poor".
Indeed, the high stakes involved can be traced all the way back to the sides' first meeting in 1907. Alfredo Dick, a former Juve president who founded Torino after being ousted from the Bianconeri, had to retire to the dressing rooms upon feeling unwell. Despite his discomfort, the Swiss textile magnate determinedly remained in the stadium, following the match's progress by way of the roars of the crowd, and was rewarded by a win for Il Toro.
Glory turns to despair for Torino
Torino dominated Italian football in the 1940s, including four consecutive league titles wins (1946-1949), and boasted no fewer than ten first-choice members of the Azzurrinational squad. But the side known as Il Grande Torino, led by inspirational captain Valentino Mazzola, were decimated by a tragic accident on 4 May 1949. On the flight back from a friendly encounter in Portugal, the plane carrying the players and club officials crashed into Superga hill near Turin, killing all onboard. The club‘s only league crown since, their eighth in total, came 27 years later in 1976.
The 1960s and 70s were a period of great social, economic and sporting upheaval in Italy, changes which would prove decisive in establishing Juventus' status as Turin's most successful football club. These changes included the massive emigration of workers from the south of the country towards the northern industrial city in search of employment in the FIAT factories of the powerful Agnelli family - owners of Juventus since 1923. This increased wealth gradually helped widen the gap between the two city rivals, with The Old Lady now having racked up a record 27 league titles, as well as success on the European and world stage.
As a result, derby matches are a valuable opportunity for Torino players to take their neighbours down a peg or two, with clashes between the two teams generally fiercely contested and evenly matched affairs. That said, there are exceptions to any rule and the Granata faithful will not wish to remember a painful 5-0 defeat to Juve back on 3 December 1995.
And while few expect Saturday evening's encounter to be as one-sided, under the current circumstances, any sort of victory for either club would be worth its weight in gold.