Torino FC aim to shine on their return to European competition but FC København will pose an early test to those aspirations and their run of clean sheets.
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Starved of top-level European football for 20 years, the Torino FC fans have embraced the UEFA Europa League this term and are expected to turn out in force when the Granata host FC København seeking to build on a solid start to Group B.
Torino had not participated in a major continental competition since their run to the quarter-finals of the 1993/94 European Cup Winners' Cup. Following a seventh-place finish in Serie A last season, the second leg of their third qualifying round tie attracted a capacity crowd at the Stadio Olimpico. Giampiero Ventura's team rewarded them with a 4-0 win against IF Brommapojkarna and subsequent entry to the group stage.
Now, after Torino eliminated RNK Split in the play-offs and then drew 0-0 at Club Brugge KV a fortnight ago, their supporters are looking forward to the visit of the ten-time Danish champions. "When we started the qualifying rounds, we were curious about this competition, but then when we had a full house for the first game, that gave us a huge sign of how much we wanted to be back," said Ventura.
"I realised how much this competition meant when I saw the stadium full for our first match," added the Torino boss, who will be without the injured Cesare Bovo and Antonio Nocerino. "When you hear the Europa League anthem, it makes you think that having not been here for so many years, the fact we are means we have achieved something."
Torino have not conceded a goal in 450 minutes of European action this campaign. Ventura, however, recognises the size of the threat to his side's aim of a sixth successive clean sheet, describing FCK as "a big test". He added: "A win would put us in a great position. If we can win, it would be a big step towards going through."
It is a sentiment echoed almost word for word by Ståle Solbakken, whose København team go into the game top of the section after beating HJK Helsinki 2-0 on matchday one while Torino held Club Brugge. "Nothing will be decided after tomorrow," he cautioned. "You always want to be first, though, and with six points we would be where we want to be."
Solbakken says home advantage makes Torino narrow favourites and identifies Fabio Quagliarella as one to watch (for good reason), "a handful for anybody". Many would apply the same tag to FCK's Nicolai Jørgensen, an injury doubt though his coach is confident the Denmark forward will play at least some part. "Maybe it's good to arrive as underdogs," said Solbakken. "We come here for three points and we are confident we can get them."