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Sunday August 18 2019
Atalanta not ready for Champions League

La Dea might’ve kept almost all their best players, but Vilizar Yakimov thinks Atalanta are unprepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

With great power comes great responsibility. Atalanta have been considered dark horses ever since Gian Piero Gasperini’s arrival in 2016, but their heroics from last season mean that La Dea quickly outgrew that tag and must accept their new status.

Atalanta’s third place finish from last year not only secured Champions League qualification, but also means they can no longer be considered a surprise package. Finishing above the likes of Inter, Milan, Roma and Torino, as well as qualifying for Europe in each of their last three campaigns, simply means that Atalanta are now one of Italy’s top teams.

However, becoming a part of that elite group comes with a certain burden, as the Orobici can no longer hide behind the low expectations, which has been one of their biggest advantages so far. This means that if Atalanta want to keep their place among Serie A’s elite and their dignity in the Champions League, they need to step it up.

The Bergamo-based club did a terrific job of keeping almost all their best players, as top scorer Duvan Zapata, club captain Papu Gomez and the mercurial Josip Ilicic have all remained at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.

In fact, the only notable departure from last year’s team was Gianluca Mancini, as the highly rated centre-back joined Roma in a deal that could reach up to €23m. It is no surprise that the Giallorossi decided to bet on the 23-year-old defender, as he featured 35 times for Atalanta during the 2018-19 campaign and even scored five goals, often demonstrating maturity well beyond his age.

Although Mancini was an important player and one who fit perfectly in Gasperini’s tactics, Atalanta seem to have enough depth at centre-back, so his sale was understandable. This means that the departures are not the reason why La Dea seem to be lacking for the challenges they are about to face in the upcoming campaign, as the issue comes from who they brought in.

Luis Muriel has been Atalanta’s most expensive and arguably most important acquisition so far this summer, as the Colombian striker arrived from Sevilla for €13m. The Orobici struggled badly in the rare cases that Duvan Zapata was unable to start last term, as Musa Barrow’s lack of experience proved that the 20-year-old is still some way off playing a key role for the team.

Muriel gives Gasperini plenty of options, as the 28-year-old is a deadly finisher and possesses an abundance of pace. This means the former Fiorentina striker can not only serve as the much-needed back-up for Zapata, but could potentially partner him too.

However, just like Ilicic, Muriel blows hot and cold, which could create problems for Atalanta, especially considering that Gasperini’s men will be competing on three fronts.

Ilicic has undoubtedly been one of the most important players for La Dea, as even his impressive record of 12 goals and seven assists in 31 Serie A appearances can’t fully encapsulate how brilliant the Slovenian was when in the mood.

Ilicic and Papu Gomez have arguably been Atalanta’s only creative forces in the Gasperini era and they have done a terrific job, but with both now being on the wrong side of 30, an alternative is needed.

The Orobici become very predictable if one of their two attacking midfielders is missing, as despite being a valuable option, Mario Pasalic just can’t offer the same vision, quality and flair.

Ruslan Malinovskyi has so far been Atalanta’s only notable midfield acquisition, as the 26-year-old Ukrainian joined from Genk for €13.5m. However, despite being a good passer, Malinovskyi has mainly featured in a deeper midfield role for most of his career, which means that it’s hard to see him stepping into either of Ilicic’s or Gomez’s shoes now.

The Ukraine international seems more an alternative to Marten De Roon and Remo Freuler, as he is good at circulating the ball and possesses an impressive engine, which means he could be useful for stretching the opposition’s defence and building the play from the back.

Atalanta are currently short of at least one wing-back following Timothy Castagne’s knee injury. The Belgian is a versatile player who can feature on both flanks and is expected to be out for around six weeks.

This means that Atalanta’s current reliable wing-back options are limited to Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens. Considering how important the position is for Gasperini’s tactics, the Nerazzurri might pay dearly if they don’t bring in another quality player before the end of the transfer window.

Atalanta did brilliantly to keep the core of players that brought success to the club during the last few seasons, but failed in finding enough quality reinforcements. Considering their current transfer dealings put them at a profit of almost €27m this summer, why haven’t they reinvested that in the squad?

It really seems that Atalanta are refusing to admit that the expectations towards them have increased for the 2019-20 season. The issues at wing-back, lack of alternatives of Ilicic and Gomez and even the absence of another reliable striker, who can rotate with Muriel and Zapata up top, all indicate that Atalanta do not look ready to compete with Europe’s best at this point.

Have your say...
To be honest,Atalanta was little lucky to be in top 4.Mainly cause Roma and Milan underpreformed.Roma had sold Kevin and Radja and Milan always look like they will struggle.With a little luck they can pass UCL group,but for this season,i think that they wont make it to top 4.Fighting on multiple fronts will hurt them a lot,and their opponents improved.In terms of fitness they are not ready for start of new season,at least from the results of friendlies that they played.
on the 20th August, 2019 at 5:47pm
Fiorentina have been bought up too n at least Atalanta hav bought n r sporting their stadium out. Good luck 2 em. They play nice, attacking football!
on the 19th August, 2019 at 11:04pm
I feel that they've got a chance. Even Gasperini said they need more buys but they've had some decent results n performances in Europe(Everton/Dortmund) This goes for Italian teams in general too. There's still time to invest n Inter n Napoli have both improved on paper at least n they weren't a million miles off Liverpool n Spurs last year.
I've noticed Serie A clubs r investing more each passing yr too n they hav good coaches n r usually tactically sound.
on the 19th August, 2019 at 11:02pm
I think it's unfair to declare Atalanta unfit for the CL even before they start it!
Not like Napoli and Roma made major success when they qualified.
Sure, its a smaller team compared to Juventus, Inter, Milan & Napoli, but with the attacking way they are playing, there is absolutely no way for them not to try.
on the 19th August, 2019 at 4:23pm
Roma PLAYED against Real and lost 2-0 at home.
They created several chances, yet conceded from 2 counters.
& that's the risk, as Real does have quality strikers/players.
It could have ended 7-0, but at least Roma TRIED!

Against Porto they didn't "play" and got knocked out.

Remember how Juve approached Atleti match in game 1 vs game 2?
Nothing to do with home/away
--Remember Juve games 1 & 2 against Real Madrid?

(PS: I realise "anti-football" can also win
--PORTO VS Monaco; GREECE VS Portugal)
on the 19th August, 2019 at 12:18pm
"...and why not ? Their American MLS shared name Atlanta won the North American version of Champions League."

And here we have the most foolish comment of the season, on the eve of the new campaign. Forget the countless elements, if you share the same name as somebody else, you could be a winner baby, yeah!!

Anonymous, go step in the corner sweetie and think think things though just a wee bit more.
on the 19th August, 2019 at 12:02pm
Edmulam,

Exactly.

Conte's style of play is not suited for elimination tournaments.
If/when it comes to 2-leg knockouts, Inter will be in trouble.

Attacking approach is more suited for CL football.
Napoli, Atalanta, Ajax, Dortmund, Roma (with Zeman or EDF) can upset heavyweights.
There is a risk of crashing out 7-1 but also opportunity to win 4-0!

Don't play safe, but literally TRY IT!
Go all in and "PLAY THE GAME"
on the 19th August, 2019 at 11:58am
But only Juve are ready for champs lig in serie A. And by ready I mean to get to quarters or at most semis with current squad. Still need 2 or 3 more players. Roma was on the right path but Monchi messed it up. Napoli are light weight up front. Inter are looking to just emerge from group as are Atalanta.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 8:35pm
Atalanta not ready for CL.... more ready than AC Milan and Roma, and Lazio. Least they qualified.
...and why not ? Their American MLS shared name Atlanta won the North American version of Champions League.
Plus this isn’t the first time Atalanta made CL.
Sadly they should of picked up 1-2 major players. They should of approached Balotelli...or even Icardi. Crazy yes knowing how big their egos and price are but with CL and fresh start they could of been huge / even bigger stars.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 7:58pm
This isn't a club with owners with endless amounts of money they have to be fiscally responsible, besides they have the best youth academy in italy sell mancini someone else will eventually step up.

There is still time in the transfer window for them to recruit players it maybe just be the case they are being diligent in their transfer dealings. This is club who are masters at finding value in the transfer market.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 5:51pm
What's the point of this article smh. Has Napoli been ready for Europe? lol lol
on the 18th August, 2019 at 3:22pm
PS

spirit_willy,

People seriously need to stop hyping Mancini.
I can't take it anymore!

Kid has great offensive header and "young-grinta" physicality.
Otherwise he's REALLY BAD.

Try to remember when he played against your team (Juve?)...
100% you scored because of HIS "defending"!

In the end, when Atalanta battled for fourth, he wasn't even starting!
Roma bought another Shick.

Silly dough?
I wouldn' pay 10 mil for another Mancini!
I wish your club had bought him.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 3:12pm
The only two teams in Italy "ready" for CL are Napoli and Juve.
It's not Atalanta's fault Italy receives 4 spots.
I hope draw will be kind to them, as afterwards anything can happen.
They can beat anyone!
They just need to get out of the group which will be hard for them being in fourth pot.

I wish them the best.

(Monchi ruined Roma's progress.
They finally got to constant CL, 2nd pot and easier draws. Damn him...)
on the 18th August, 2019 at 2:54pm
Atalanta need some new players quickly, maybe find some from China who are Brazilian playing for unknown teams, or some teams in Arabia who have South American players who are top scorers in their leagues, bet they can get them cheap. Think Torino's run into Europe is nearly over, we always lose against Premiership teams who knock out or stop Serie A teams from progressing, the luck of the draw never favours Italy.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 2:39pm
The team of anonymous players (but top scorer D. Zapata) reaches 3rd in Serie A, absolutely astonishing work of management.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 1:35pm
Malinovskyi performed very well as a number ten in presaseon. Last season he got 16 assists and scored 16 goals, he is a more creative player than this website assumes.

Castagne is out for one month, if Gosens leaves then a replacement will be bought. Reca played well as a wing-back versus Parma last season.

Atalanta have improved their striking situation since last season. Muriel is an improvement to the squad in my opinion.

Everyone I speak to is looking forward to Atalanta's Champions League campaign. Nobody really cares about what is or isn't expected of us.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 12:04pm
ITS REALLY A KEY POINT HERE. SELLING MANCINI IS THE TESTAMENT FOR THEM. HE DIDNT EVEN REACHED THE PEAK BUT THEY SOLD HIM FOR SOME SILLY DOUGHS. ATLANTA WAS MOST ENTERTAINING TEAM LAST SEASON, REALLY. MONEY WILL COME AND GO. DO SOME CRAZY STUFFS IN TRANSFER MARKET; ITS A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY. I AM ALSO IN LINE WITH THE WRITER; THERE"S NO POINT FORFEITING TO DEFEAT BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED. . .
on the 18th August, 2019 at 11:57am
They're as ready for the CL as Inter or Napoli are, if not more so.

They've kept most of their best players and there's still a few weeks of the market to go to get one or two more.

As for not being seen as an underdog anymore, I still think they will. The advantage they have over other Serie A sides is that at least they have a go in games, not hiding out or holding on like the teams of Allegri, Spalletti and the like did.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 11:24am
Non of the italian teams are 'ready' or more to the point good enough for the champs league. Another disappointing season ahead for Italian fans and for italian football all together.
on the 18th August, 2019 at 10:56am

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