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.
Juventus: Miralem Pjanic is suspended, while Douglas Costa (calf) and Rodrigo Bentancur (thigh) are banged up after the Supercoppa, but they could recover by Monday. Mario Mandzukic will be on the mend for a couple more weeks and Medhi Benatia remains iffy with a sore groin.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Allan and Kalidou Koulibaly are disqualified. Dries Mertens is trying to shake off an ankle sprain and his presence is not 100 percent certain. Marek Hamsik is not expected to come back from his thigh strain. Raul Albiol is fatigued, but available. Continue reading →
An extra-long Serie A round is main evented by the Derby della Mole on Saturday night.
Inter-Udinese: the Nerazzurri will be looking to bounce back after a heartbreaking elimination from Champions League, where they fumbled away a great opportunity, and the tough loss against Juventus, where they squandered their chances. The Zebrette were handed their first loss under Davide Nicola by Atalanta last week. Inter continue to be carried by Mauro Icardi and Matteo Politano, with Balde Keita capable of some impressive showings, but still lacking that consistent playing time necessary to be a fantasy stud, even though the real Ivan Perisic has not showed up in a while. Continue reading →
There were a pair of dominant displays in the weekend, in particular by Roma and Atalanta, but since the score was the same, the Goddess gets the shout-out as they did it against a way more competitive team. They always seem to put up a good fight when facing Inter, but their performance on Sunday went beyond the rosiest expectation.
Atalanta had won just in the first game prior to this weekend, against Frosinone, and had failed to score in five of the last six outings, where they were defeated four times. However, they snapped out of their slump and thoroughly dominated Chievo on Sunday, spoiling Gian Piero Ventura’s debut and earning the club of the week award.
Gian Piero Gasperini shook things up a little after the break, putting Josip Ilicic into the starting XI even though he had not done anything relevant so far and picking Musa Barrowover Duvan Zapata in the attack. Gianluca Manciniagain filled in for the injured Andrea Masiello, while Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens manned the flanks. Continue reading →
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 →
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.