Atalanta defender Andrea Masiello has advice for “animal” Martin Skrtel and insists “Gian Piero Gasperini is on the same level as Antonio Conte.”
La Dea were the surprise package of last season, finishing third in Serie A for their first ever Champions League qualification and reaching the Coppa Italia Final.
“We will have to press the reset button and start all over again, find that same mental freedom that allowed us to be this Atalanta,” Masiello told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“There are two options in front of us now: we can let ourselves get swept along by the general enthusiasm or we can find that same hunger. We built our identity over such a long and difficult journey, it would be a pity to waste it.
“Gasperini really reminds me of Conte in his ferocity, as both Coaches work hard and expect the same from their players. They study the opposition, enjoy shaking things up from the bench and finding solutions to difficult situations.
“Conte obviously worked at bigger clubs, but as of today Gasperini is on the same level as Conte, I have no doubt about that. On August 29, we’ll watch the draw for the best clubs in Europe and Atalanta will be in there. Perhaps only at that moment will we realise just what we’ve achieved over the last three years.
“I’ll be honest, I would love for us to draw Barcelona in the group stage, as we’d be up against the best team in the world and the best player in Lionel Messi.”
Masiello admits the Atalanta all-attack approach can leave them wide open, but that’s part of their charm.
“It’s not easy to be a defender for Atalanta. If you get anything slightly wrong, they can go clear on goal back there, but if we didn’t have that pressing game, then we wouldn’t be Atalanta. It’s always worth trying to force the opposition to play badly.”
He’ll have to get new signing Skrtel into that mentality and tactical system as soon as possible.
“I used to watch Skrtel play for Liverpool and think, wow, he’s an animal. Not many in Italy have that kind of grit, but we had to explain to him that it’s also because here the referees punish every foul.
“Just having his experience for our first impact with the Champions League will be a great help.”