Olbia (Italy) (AFP) – Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic believes the legacy of the Torino squad that perished in the Superga disaster can help his side beat Serie A leaders Juventus in the city derby on Saturday.
On May 4, 1949 a plane flying the ‘Grande Torino’ squad and staff back from a friendly against Portuguese giants Benfica crashed into the Superga Basilica which overlooks the city, killing 31 people.
Two days after the city commemorated the victims with an annual, controversy-hit procession to the church, Mihajlovic is hoping Torino’s heroes of yesteryear help his side claim the local bragging rights.
“The fact this derby comes two days after the anniversary can give us an extra boost,” Mihajlovic said Friday.
“For us, our past history and the colours and soul of the club are all things to be honoured. It might sound rhetorical, but we carry the club’s history with us every time we step on to the pitch.
“Tomorrow the heroes of Superga will be there with us. It doesn’t mean we’ll win, because we’re up against possibly the strongest team in the world, but we’ll leave everything out there.”
But Torino will need more than nostalgia and respect for heroes past if they are to cause an upset and beat their far richer Turin neighbours.
With a nine-point lead on Roma, Juve will be mathematically assured a record sixth consecutive scudetto this weekend if they claim their fourth consecutive league win over Torino and AC Milan beat the capital side in Sunday’s late game.
It would give Massimiliano Allegri’s men an unassailable 12-point lead with three games remaining.
Juventus also remain on course for an unprecedented club treble: Juve face Lazio in the Italian Cup final and hold a 2-0 first-leg lead over Monaco before their Champions League semi-final decider on Tuesday.
But Germany midfielder Sami Khedira, who sat out Wednesday’s win over Monaco due to suspension, insisted there is still plenty of work to do.
“The fans have a dream, which is the same as ours,” Khedira said Thursday. “But we are not dreamers, and if we want to go all the way we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
Torino’s fans, meanwhile, are expected to be especially vociferous. Earlier this week, vandals enraged the club and its supporters after a series of offensive messages targeting Torino were painted on the roads and walls leading to the Basilica.
Juventus fans were suspected, and Bianconeri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon clearly pointed the finger at them in a no-nonsense message on his Facebook account Thursday.
“On a beautiful day after our victory (in Monaco) my thoughts go out to our Torino cousins, to their fans and to those glorious players who made an entire nation proud,” Buffon said.
“Eternal honour to Grande Torino, and forgive those who have committed these indescribable acts. How can you show such a lack of respect nearly 70 years later?
“The dead are already dead, and don’t bother anyone. Leave them in peace and show them respect, even if they are our bitter enemies. The dead have wives, sons and grandsons and to add to their suffering is simply inhuman.”
Mihajlovic added: “Buffon is a great man both on and off the pitch. What he said was very honourable.”