Atalanta BC welcome Hellas Verona to Bergamo on Saturday, bolstered by their superb win at Anfield in midweek, after Gian Piero Gasperini‘s side downed English champions Liverpool in the Champions League.
Verona, meanwhile, tumbled out of the Coppa Italia on the back of a 2-0 defeat to high-flyers Sassuolo last weekend.
After the incredible highs, such as scoring goals for fun while challenging for glory at home and abroad, and solemn lows – being located at the European epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic – of the 2019-20 campaign, Atalanta started this season in familiar fashion by racking up 13 goals in their first three Serie A games.
Since then, however, La Dea’s form nosedived and they have only netted five goals in their past five league games – with either Papu Gomez and Duvan Zapata failing to hit the net in their last five games. Only strugglers Genoa (with three) and Crotone (four) have scored fewer in this period. Not only that, but among teams in the top half of the table, Atalanta have conceded the most goals too – 14 in total.
That malaise was all but forgotten in the course of 90 glorious minutes on Merseyside though, as Gasperini’s talented team gained revenge for their humiliating 5-0 home defeat earlier this month by convincingly beating a heavily-rotated Liverpool team 2-0 on Wednesday.
Long-absent forward Josip Ilicic‘s first goal of the season was quickly followed by another from German wing-back Robin Gosens, as Gasperini outfoxed Jurgen Klopp‘s charges by employing a 3-5-2 selection without out-and-out strikers. Argentinian playmaker Gomez was one of the ‘false nines’ in that setup and subsequently dedicated the win to fellow countryman Diego Maradona, whose death had been announced earlier that day.
After their victorious jaunt to England, Atalanta are now unbeaten in three matches – though the historic triumph over the Reds was their first win in four outings.
The Bergamaschi attack could not break down promoted Spezia’s defence last weekend, though several late returns from international duty in South America may have been a significant factor in that limp showing.
Since their return from the international break, Verona have not fared at all well – perhaps unsurprisingly losing to a buoyant Sassuolo side last weekend before going out of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday after conceding an injury time goal to lose 2-1 at Cagliari.
However all is not as it seems, as the Gialloblu’s defeat against Sassuolo came despite striking the woodwork a remarkable four times – and their cup exit was a particularly controversial affair.
Riccardo Sottil scored deep into stoppage time to help Cagliari progress at Verona’s expense – incidentally the the Sardinian side now face Atalanta in the next round – but Hellas were denied just after the hour mark when Eddie Salcedo had a goal harshly disallowed for a push on Alberto Cerri.
It was a bitter blow for coach Ivan Juric, as he prepares to face his mentor Gasperini at the Gewiss Stadium this week. Both games between master and apprentice were tight affairs last season, Verona losing 3-2 in Bergamo then drawing 1-1 at the Bentegodi.
Their historical record will not fill them with confidence for an already challenging trip because Verona have won only one of their last 16 away league games against Atalanta, losing nine. That sole triumph was a 2-1 win back in April 2014, with goals from Massimo Donati and Luca Toni.
In fact, Verona’s last away win in Serie A altogether was as long ago as January – some ten months ago – a 2-0 defeat of subsequently relegated SPAL. Since then they have drawn nine and lost five on their travels and that run of 14 away games without success is the longest of all current Serie A sides.
Though inconsistent in recent times, Atalanta are reliably fast starters, having so far scored the most goals in the first half of league games this season, with 12. The well-oiled Verona defence – which has conceded just seven league goals this term – will therefore need to be wide awake from the very first whistle in order to keep the home side at bay on Saturday evening.
Atalanta BC Serie A form: WLLWDD
Atalanta BC form (all competitions): DWLDDW
Hellas Verona Serie A form: LDDWDL
Hellas Verona form (all competitions): DDWDLL
The list of absentees for Ivan Juric’s Verona is lengthening, as star buy Nikola Kalinic recovers from an injury sustained against Sassuolo and winger Darko Lazovic continues to quarantine. Matteo Lovato, Koray Gunter, ex-Leeds United man Ronaldo Vieira and midfielder Marco Benassi are all out through injury.
Antonin Barak has netted three of the Gialloblu’s four most recent goals and will return to his spot in support of the lone striker, with Marco Faraoni likely to return out wide. Back-up striker Samuel Di Carmine is poised to start up front in a 3-4-2-1 formation.
Home manager Gian Piero Gasperini has several injuries to contend with, though his squad boasts more depth than ever this season. Midfielder Mario Pasalic, Fabio Depaoli, Ruslan Malinovsky and centre-back Mattia Caldara (long-term) are out injured.
Colombian duo Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel are most likely to feature up front after being benched for the Champions League tie with Liverpool and could even be handed a rare start as a duo, rather than customarily replacing one another in the second half.
Summer signing Aleksey Miranchuk continues to push for a place, as the Russian midfielder has scored in two of his three appearances so far.
Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Ilicic, Gomez; Zapata
Hellas Verona possible starting lineup:
Silvestri; Cetin, Ceccherini, Magnani; Faraoni, Tameze, Veloso, Dimarco; Barak, Zaccagni; Di Carmine
We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 Hellas Verona
Atalanta can ride the wave of their Champions League triumph over Liverpool by returning home to pick off a Verona side whose away record has been pretty paltry in 2020.
Though Ivan Juric’s side can boast a fine defensive record so far, the multiple threats posed by La Dea’s adaptable strikeforce cannot be denied. Duvan Zapata can break his barren run here to put the Gialloblu to the sword.
Top betting tip
Source: | This article originally belongs to Sportsmole.co.uk
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