Gian Piero Gasperini understands why some consider Atalanta the Coppa Italia favourites against Lazio tomorrow. “We have the mentality.”
The Final kicks off in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).
“I am very happy with the influx of fans coming to Rome and I’d be even happier if we were able to win the Coppa. That’s not down to one person, but to every element of the club. We all pushed together to reach this Final and it’s already a success to have all these people in Rome. Now for the game,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“We are facing this Final the way it has to be approached. We are up against a strong side like Lazio, but I see an Atalanta side that is very concentrated on what we need to do.
“It has always been a strong characteristic of ours that we can isolate ourselves from everything around us, we already proved that we can beat Lazio in Serie A and I think we have our chances of winning here too.
“It’s an emotional occasion, but once it kicks off, we must put all that to one side. Last season, we showed in the Europa League that we could do well in Cup competitions and had the character to compete at that level, so the mentality is there.”
Gasperini was asked about the tactical switch to 4-3-1-2 with Papu Gomez as the trequartista, using Josip Ilicic in a more advanced role with Duvan Zapata.
“It had a huge influence, as up until that moment we were struggling to score goals. We also changed a lot from last season in terms of personnel and Duvan Zapata proved a decisive addition. With time, we achieved these numbers, becoming the top scoring side in Serie A, but also amassed many points to go with the goals.
“This is a team that has completed so many comebacks, as we so often found ourselves going behind, but always found the resources to react and overturn it, including against Lazio. “
Having won at the Olimpico 3-1 in Serie A earlier this month and their current form could make Atalanta the favourites going in.
“There is never a favourite in a Final, especially against a side like Lazio who are playing essentially on home turf. The fact we beat them here 10 days ago gives us more belief that we can do it again, but it’s open to any outcome.
“Look, if you want to give us the role of favourites, I’ll take that. It’s strange, considering we’re up against Lazio, but I repeat we have our chances to win and we’ve proved that throughout the campaign.”
While Lazio are in their fourth Coppa Italia Final in six seasons, Atalanta had not reached this stage of the competition since 1996.
“It’s only an atypical Final because Atalanta are in it, because Lazio are regulars at this level. The fact we eliminated Juventus certainly gave us the credibility to reach the Final.
“Italian football is growing, but there is still not enough put in place to ensure greater meritocracy. I am referring to a system that can reward clubs that prove themselves to be virtuous.”
Gasperini has been linked to bigger clubs, including Roma, Milan and even Juventus.
“It’s normal in this period to be linked with other roles, and I am sure these clubs will all have Plan A, B and C on their minds. When I say the future now is the Coppa Italia and concluding this Serie A season, I mean it. I have a contract with this club and everything will be discussed with President Percassi.”
Atalanta are currently fourth in Serie A, so would Gasp prefer to win the Coppa Italia or clinch a place in the Champions League?
“Now that I’m looking at the Coppa trophy, it’s very beautiful… We will try to achieve both objectives. Right now, we are concentrated on the Coppa, but there’s so little time between the games that we can’t give an inch.”
Over 21,000 fans are travelling to Rome for the Final, although some reports put that figure slightly higher.
“I want to say a word to all the fans who are coming in from Bergamo, and there really are many. They are made up of people from all walks of life, all classes. I hope and wish there are no incidents that could ruin such an extraordinary event. We must all ensure this is a night only about sport and football.”
Rafael Toloi is still out injured, but Musa Barrow and Jose Luis Palomino have shaken off knocks.
Atalanta squad: Berisha, Gollini, Rossi; Castagne, Djimsiti, Gosens, Hateboer, Ibanez, Mancini, Masiello, Palomino, Reca; Colpani, De Roon, Del Prato, Freuler, Pasalic, Pessina; Barrow, Gomez, Ilicic, Piccoli, Duvan Zapata