Not many sides are as rock and roll as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. But over the last three seasons, Italian side Atalanta have certainly offered as much entertainment as the Reds.
As the intriguing clash between one of Europe’s best and one of Europe’s most likeable approaches, we look back on how Atalanta have become one of the most exciting teams in Europe.
The rise of Atalanta
If you go back four years the club from Bergamo were in a constant cycle of mid-table finishes.
However, the day Gian Piero Gasperini walked into the club things took a dramatic change.
It would be fair to say that Gasperini is an unconventional tactician but the gung-ho style that his team play with has made them such a refreshing sight at European level.
Since the introduction of Gasperini to Atalanta, the team has operated in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with an all-out attack attitude to the game.
The style of the team has clearly paid off as in his first season Atalanta finished 4th. This was a very impressive finish for a side that had not qualified to play in Europe in over 25 years.
The season that followed may have suggested that Atalanta’s aggressive attacking play had been worked out as they dropped down to a 7th place finish.
This was not the case however as it was the 2018-19 season where the Bergamaschi showcased their philosophy with great success.
Gasperini forged history for the club when Atalanta finished 3rd place, and secured a UEFA Champions League spot for the first time in the club’s 112-year history.
Atalanta also reached the final of the Coppa Italia where they lost to Lazio.
Atalanta last season
It seems that Atalanta are slow starters and this was highlighted in their first Champions League campaign as by the halfway point they looked destined to finish last place as they had not picked up a point and had conceded 11 goals.
Not many predicted Atalanta’s revival in the competition but after going unbeaten in the reverse fixtures, Atalanta found themselves in the round of 16.
Putting eight goals past Valencia over two legs is the best example of an Atalanta performance to date.
The ‘La Dea’ faced the eventual finalist PSG in the quarters and were minutes away from a Champions League semi final in their first appearance. However, two late goals from the French giants broke Italian hearts.
PSG were probably thankful the tie was reduced to one leg due to the coronavirus.
In the league campaign that season it was another hugely successful one.
A last day defeat to Inter Milan cost them a best finish in Serie A. The club ended the season in third and had the best goal difference in the division.
This season it has been a mixed start for Atalanta with four wins and two losses in Serie A.
They sit second in Group D behind Liverpool, after heavily defeating Midtjylland in Denmark and fighting back to earn a draw against Ajax at home.
The superstars of Atalanta
The beauty of Atalanta’s rise is the fact that Gasperini has achieved it by building a team with limited funds and the unearthing of many hidden gems.
Another brilliant aspect to the team is that the incredible goal haul they produce is shared amongst the whole squad.
Atalanta goals and assist 2019-20 season
- Josip Ilicic (21 goals, 9 assists)
- Duvan Zapata (19 goals, 8 assists)
- Luis Muriel (19 goals, one assist)
- Mario Pasalic (12 goals, 7 assists)
- Robin Gosens (10 goals, 8 assists)
- Ruslan Malinovskyi (9 goals, 7 assists)
- Alejandro Gomez (8 goals, 18 assists)
Taking this in to account it is very hard to pick a main threat to Liverpool tonight. The whole team chip in with goals and are clinical on the counter.
The team’s captain Alejandro Gomez is nearing the 100-goal mark for the club.
The Argentine has been a fan favourite at the club since his move from Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv in 2014. His tidy dribbling combined with his eye for a pass will be a worry for the reds especially with a shortage of defensive options.
Just as dangerous as the Atalanta skipper is Slovenian attacker Josip Illic. The forward made 30 goal contributions last season, including a four-goal haul against Valencia in the Champions League.
The best way to describe Atalanta’s team is they are a similar mold to Jurgens Klopp’s early Liverpool side – not the best defensibly but enough quality to beat the world’s best on their day.
This is why Atalanta will pose a difficult opponent for Liverpool tonight.
(image by Save the Dream under creative commons)