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Friday September 29 2017
Lyon know Atalanta now

Olympique Lyonnais had never heard of Papu Gomez or Atalanta, but the complacent French giants were given a crash course, writes Billy Wilkinson.

A draw at Stade de Lyon has put Atalanta in a position they most likely didn’t think they’d be in – they’re top of their Europa League group after two games. The Bergamo based club were dealt a ‘group of death’ containing Lyon, Everton and Cypriot side Apollon Limassol. However, according to FiveThirtyEight, Atalanta have a 95% chance to advance to the knockout rounds.

The Serie A outfit have two out of three of their toughest Europa League games out of the way already. On Thursday evening, they looked like seasoned continental competitors.

It’s true, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side faced 21 shots from Olympique Lyonnais, seven of which forced saves from Etrit Berisha, and they only saw 35% of the ball. However, they still came out with a hard-earned point.

They didn’t let their heads drop even after conceding a goal on the stroke of half-time, their nerves never seem to get the better of them, and even their younger players, such as Mattia Caldara, didn’t seem frightened by the occasion.

The defensive positioning was structured and patient, but they added a more important European ingredient – clinical finishing. They’d barely threatened all night, but just before the hour mark, Papu Gomez played a one-two with Remo Freuler off a free kick and rifled past Anthony Lopes.

This week, Lyon star Nabil Fekir confessed he’d never heard of Gomez. Papu pointed to the name on the back of his jersey after the goal: they know him now. Considering Lyon were held to a last-gasp draw by Apollon Limassol – who pulled a similar trick when down to 10 men away to the dismal Everton – you’d think the French giants would put a little more effort into researching their group stage opponents. Instead, they even spent much of the media day referring to them as ‘Bergamo.’ Atalanta are named after the Goddess that runs like the wind, and they sprinted away from Lyon with a precious point.

These games are all about survival, especially when you’ve got a dream as narrow as Atalanta’s was when this competition started. All you need is that lucky chance and a solid defensive performance, and you might just be in business.

Even in May, Gasperini was tipping the Europa League to be a priority over Serie A, but when the groups were drawn, it looked a foolish commitment.

Now it’s Atalanta who are laughing. It’s not guaranteed that they will qualify for the knockout stages, but it looks promising. Perhaps pundits underrated just how much playing in this competition would mean to Atalanta: not all clubs regard it as an inconvenience.

Italy haven’t had a team that takes this competition seriously since it was called the UEFA Cup. For a club like Atalanta, who don’t know when it’ll next come around, it’s refreshing to see a club give their all in it. Hopefully this little Bergamo side can make a deep run, because they certainly showed they could last night.

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Have your say...
If they win both matches against Apollon, then I'm sure even with one more draw, they'll be in the KO round! And with the quality they have, Atalanta definitely can do it and deserve it! I watched Everton playing at home last week, and they were so terrible, it wasn't a good match to build a general opinion. But even when they're much better, if Atalanta p[lay their game, they could draw easily! And if Everton continues to be this bad, then they have all the chances to get all 3 points in Englan
on the 4th October, 2017 at 9:01pm
Theo - Nothing dead about Serie A. Last time I checked we had 5 wins and a draw this round in the CL. HAve you seen the games played in the league so far? Many close,low, and high scoring games.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 8:57pm
Also, Remo Freuler is a quality player.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 8:55pm
Just goes to show how smart they were to sell overrated Conti and Kessie. All that money to be used to improve their stadia and keep the Primavera cooking. They play a solid team game, and have the right coach and formula to keep this up.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 8:48pm
@anon hmmmm didnt think of gasp for nt coach . Not a bad idea tbh. I wonder if ancelotti will take the azzuri bench.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 7:22pm
I've watched both their Europa League games now and they've been great and are really fun to watch. I thought they were finished last night when they gave up that goal in the 45th minute, psychologically what should have been a crippling blow after being under pressure the entire first half. I'm coming to Italy in 2 weeks for a calico trip, 5 games in 8 nights. Really want to go to Limassol game but so much more complicated trying to figure how to get to Mapei Stadium and back from Bergamo.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 7:14pm
Ventura is Coach of Italy because of Tevechhio. The Italian FA chief renewed the Ventura contract for further two years although Ventura has done nothing so far at least he should wait for the qualification. Stupid Combo Tevechio and Ventura.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 5:50pm
Brilliant display from Atalanta. They went down to a fortuitous goal but played damn well. Bergamo should eb prod of its team!!
on the 29th September, 2017 at 3:06pm
Caldara showing some serious promise. Picked up right where he left off from last season. I reckon if he is developed properly he will become world class.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 2:49pm
A twitch of life in the dead league known as Serie A. Worth raising a glass to. Stay above Germany.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 2:39pm
Gasp for the Nazionale!! Show Ventura how to coach!!!

Forza Atalanta
on the 29th September, 2017 at 12:36pm
Great to see caldara and spinazzola doing well and gaining experience
on the 29th September, 2017 at 11:46am
the europa league maybe a second string competition but it still should be respected the teams are in it for good reason especially those like lyon or everton who think they are too big for the competition considering they will probably be in it next season as well. Putting my frustration aside atalanta deserve to be in this position they are probably the best run side in serie a who operate on a fraction of the budget which lyon or everton boast. kudos
on the 29th September, 2017 at 9:25am
Very refreshing indeed, amazing what they are able to do also considering how many of their players got poached. Gasperini is doing a fantastic job.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 8:48am

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