Atalanta On Course for Historic Season

After their 2-1 victory over Fiorentina, Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta qualified for the Coppa Italia final; a feat they last accomplished over 23 years ago. You would have to go back all the way to 1963 since the last time gli Orobici hoisted the trophy. Since Gasperini’s arrival, Atalanta have played some of the most exciting football on the peninsula, and are finally being rewarded for it. Despite losing key players every other season, Atalanta remain unfazed, and continue to play their progressive football.

In addition to their impressive cup run, Atalanta have been on a tear in league play as well, scoring 66 goals thus far; just one behind league leaders Juventus. Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez have proven to be one of the league’s most lethal trios, tormenting defences at will.

As of right now, the Bergamo based outfit are tied for fourth place with Milan on 56 points, with just five games to play. Should they claim their second ever Coppa Italia and qualify for next season’s Champions League, the 2018-2019 season will undoubtedly go down as one of Atalanta’s most successful seasons in their history.

Let’s have a look and see just how feasible this is for Italy’s high-flyers. In their next two games, Gasperini’s men take on relegation threatened Udinese, and Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio. While Atalanta should have no issues dispatching Udinese, Lazio will represent a different challenge altogether.

Inzaghi’s men will have their eyes set on the top four, and are one of Atalanta’s direct competitors for top four football. In the past, Lazio have closed their seasons strongly, however, have typically failed at the final hurdle. Atalanta, on the other hand, are new to the top four race, but haven’t shown their inexperience thus far going toe-to-toe with the likes of Juventus, Roma, and Napoli among others.

In their last three games, Gasperini’s men will then take on Genoa, Juventus, and Sassuolo. All three games represent challenges of their own, but if this season is anything to go by, they will be up for the challenge. In their first encounter this season, Atalanta succumbed to Genoa by a score of 3-1, while they held the league champions Juventus to a draw. When they met Juventus in the Coppa Italia, by contrast, gli Orobici made light work of the bianconeri and prevailed 3-0.

One thing that will play in Atalanta’s favour is their opponents’ motivation, or lack thereof, rather. Genoa are completely safe from the drop, while Juventus have already claimed the Scudetto, and will be experimenting with their lineup. The same goes for Sassuolo, who much like Genoa, are more than safe. As a result, Atalanta’s hunger could see them prevail. 

As for the Coppa Italia, Gasperini’s men will take on Lazio. While it will undoubtedly be a difficult affair, Atalanta have proven they fear no club this season, and could go toe-to-toe with just about anybody in Italy. As a result, winning the Coppa Italia is far more than just a pipe dream for the bergamaschi. 

Gasperini and Atalanta will be happy with this season no matter how it ends, but it would be nice for their efforts to be rewarded with a trophy and Champions League football to boot. Bar none, they have played the best football in Italy, and would be worthy representatives in Europe next year. The ball is now in their court, and if this season is anything to go by, they’ll likely lump it up the field to Zapata, and score.

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Federico Chiesa: Italy’s Latest Controversial Superstar

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A

Italian football are no strangers to their misunderstood and controversial superstars. Before Mario Balotelli emerged on the scene, there was Antonio Cassano. And before them came Roma’s iconic bad-boy Francesco Totti. While calcio’s latest exploit, Federico Chiesa, has done nowhere near enough to steal the headlines alongside these players, the Fiorentina winger is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons at the moment.

Since emerging through the ranks at Fiorentina, Chiesa has established himself as one of Italy’s elite talents and will undoubtedly become a cornerstone of Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri setup moving forward. Comfortable with playing on either wing, the 21-year-old has arguably developed into la Viola’s most important player in the final third, and has even added end product to his game this season.

Deploying him alongside Giovanni Simeone, and Luis Muriel, Fiorentina boss Stefano Pioli has been able to get the most out of his talented winger. Currently, Chiesa has scored five goals and registered three assists in league play, all-while propelling Fiorentina into a race for the Europa League and deep into the Coppa Italia – a competition in which, alone, he’s got six goals.

Outside of his ability to find the back of the net, Chiesa has also been effective at feeding his teammates. At the moment, the Italian international is averaging 1.8 key passes per game and has been a constant menace on the counter attack with his impressive turn of pace.

Despite his recent exploits, the press surrounding Chiesa has never been worse. While the 21-year-old is capable of the extravagant on the ball, he’s also developed a reputation for diving, and manipulating the referees. If it were a one-off occurrence, it wouldn’t be an issue. However, just this season alone Chiesa’s antics have infuriated the masses, and he’s been labelled as enemy number one from rival fan-bases.

Most recently, Chiesa undeservedly earned Fiorentina another penalty shot, this time coming in their Coppa Italia clash against Atalanta. It would inevitably prove to be the difference as La Viola earned a 3-3 draw going into the second leg. Earlier this season, the Fiorentina winger Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini had some select words for Chiesa after the game.

“Chiesa? The penalty was a farce. It’s an episode that hurts the player’s reputation more than anything,” said Gasperini to Quotidiano.net. 

With a number of suitors, both abroad and within Italy, heavily after Chiesa including Roma and Tottenham Hotspur among others, the young winger will have to curb this bad habit. Otherwise, it may prevent him from reaching the very top.

There’s no denying Chiesa’s talent and versatility in the final third, however, clubs will think twice before making him their marquee signing if his diving antics persist. As Chiesa is about to enter a crucial stage in his career – a point where many Italian talents in the past have tailed off – it’s time for Chiesa to put the theatrics behind him once and for all and put his footballing development first. If not, calcio fans may be witnessing Domenico Berardi 2.0; a scary prospect indeed.

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Atalanta and Sampdoria: Serie A’s Party Crashers

Every season there’s one team in Serie A that pushes above their weight and vies for European football among the league’s elite. With Lazio, Milan and Roma all fighting for top four this year, they all seem to have forgotten about Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta and Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria. Both sides have been in excellent form playing impressive football and have now entered the Champions League race without making too much of a fuss. Right now, the five teams are separated by a mere three points going into a crucial stage of the season.

Led by the eternal Fabio Quagliarella, who has now scored in 11 consecutive games equalling Gabriel Batistuta’s record in the process, Sampdoria find themselves just two points back behind fourth place Milan. Giampaolo has been able to get the most out of his men in his preferred ‘Christmas Tree’ formation (4-3-1-2) and has since attracted interest from the peninsula’s elite for his good work. Insisting on possession football and building patiently, the blucerchiati have dominated the opposition at times, and have proven to be a match for any team in the league.

While Quagliarella is the one bagging the goals, the impressive work done by midfield dynamos Dennis Praet and Karol Linetty should not go unnoticed. Juventus loanee Emil Audero has also manned the sticks wonderfully in his debut season in Serie A, especially with the veteran presence of Lorenzo Tonelli in front of him.

Atalanta, on the other hand, have played some explosive football this season and lead the league in scoring with 47 goals. In fact, gli Orobici have found the back of the net 16 times in their last four league games, three of which coming most recently in their comeback against Roma on the weekend. With Duvan Zapata flanked by Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic, Gasperini’s side posses arguably one of the world’s most underrated front-lines. Zapata is currently on 15 goals on the season and has now scored in Atalanta’s last nine games in all competitions.

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Serie A Game of the Week – Round 36: Lazio vs Atalanta

 

lazioatalanta2

The most exhilarating game of the weekend was probably the back and forth between Genoa and Fiorentina, but since it was already thoroughly broken down by Chloe here, let’s dive into another pretty amusing one: Lazio-Atalanta, which was also one of the few fixtures where there was something at stake for both teams.

The two clubs arrived at this game in high spirits, riding three-game winning streaks. Simone Inzaghi had the task of replacing his injured star Ciro Immobile and picked the easiest fix, the backup Felipe Caicedo. After some gamesmanship in the pre-game presser, Gian Piero Gasperini fielded both Remo Freuler and Bryan Cristante, kept Josip Ilicic on the bench and chose José-Luis Palomino for the suspended Mattia Caldara.  Continue reading

Serie A Club of the Week: Atalanta

atalanta

There were three candidates for team of the week in the last Serie A, with Torino and Juventus scoring multiple goals and keeping the clean sheet, but the shout-out goes to Atalanta, which did it on the road, with a larger result than the Bianconeri and against a tougher opponent than Benevento.

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Gasperini should not be sacked despite Derby defeat

Genoa-Empoli Campionato Serie A Tim 2014-2015

The Stadio Luigi Ferraris offers no place to hide. Its benches located opposite to the tunnel, the only option is to face the music. For Gian Piero Gasperini the tune was sombre as he trudged, despairingly, having seen his side fall just short in the Derby della Lanterna.

“Am I at risk?” Gasperini considered in the post-match interviews. “It’s not for me to say.” But it’s a fair question. Genoa’s loss against city rivals Sampdoria was their third Derby defeat in the past four. It was also a fifth loss in succession, six when including the humiliating Coppa Italia elimination against third tier Alessandria. The defeat left Genoa straddling the relegation zone. “Clearly that is an alarm bell,” he accepted.

However, there was something in the Grifoni in their near-comeback which suggested the situation can be rectified. Gasperini implored that his side “never stopped playing” as they very nearly turned a three goal deficit into a dramatic draw.

Genoa went into the Round 18 clash with the joint second worst attack, notching only 15 strikes. Yet Leonardo Pavoletti continued his purple patch amid the recent gloom, almost single-handedly dragging the Rossoblu back into the contest with his late brace. It took his League tally to seven in only ten appearances.

It’s no secret Genoa are on the hunt for attacking options this January. Suso made his debut – as did midfielder Luca Rigoni – having arrived on loan from Milan. The Grifoni have also been linked with loan deals for Giuseppe Rossi, Alessio Cerci and ex-player Stephan El Shaarawy. Shorn of their top three strikers from last season, it was always going to be tough. Perhaps this month they can rectify the situation.

Gasperini, who led Genoa to sixth last term, may even have left smiling had Darko Lazovic not spurned a gilt-edged chance. Down 3-1 at the time, it proved a costly miss. As did the earlier error which allowed Roberto Soriano to open the scoring. As the tactician later said, his side are paying the price for errors and being forced to fight back too often.

Oddly enough it’s the manner of the defeat which offers hope. Genoa can build on the spirit shown and then use the transfer market to see them steer clear of relegation danger and Gasperini the wrath of President Enrico Preziosi. But with such poor recent form, Genoa must act quickly.