Gian Piero Gasperini insists Atalanta must start their season against SPAL by thinking about Serie A safety. “Being humble does not mean we are not ambitious.”
It kicks off on Sunday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT), click here for a match preview.
They are coming off their most successful ever campaign, finishing third and qualifying for the Champions League, so Gasp was asked what their ambitions are for this season.
“We have ambitions of safety,” he replied. “We can think about the rest later. I agree with our President that this is a show of unity and not of weakness. Being humble does not mean we are not ambitious.
“We’re starting from scratch and will find objectives as we go, but we can’t start out saying we’re challenging for the Scudetto, Champions League or Europa League. Don’t forget last season, we were third from bottom after eight rounds. We ended up in third place, overtaking 11 teams. At that moment, we were thinking only about safety.
“Now we can finally get back to playing and it’s a very difficult test against SPAL. We want to start strong and send out a signal, first of all to ourselves.”
Atalanta have made relatively few investments over the summer, but did keep their star names, adding Luis Muriel, Ruslan Malinovskyi and Martin Skrtel.
“It’s an advantage that we have the same foundations, as we already know each other and feel more confident. It’s not easy to introduce new players quickly.
“I haven’t the foggiest idea if there will be more new signings before the transfer deadline. We’ll see if someone else arrives. Arkadiusz Reca and Matteo Pessina aren’t making this trip, because the market is open and they are on the way out. It’s madness to have the transfer market open when the season kicks off.”
There will be changes against SPAL, because Josip Ilicic is suspended and Timothy Castagne injured.
“The important thing is that we don’t get the attitude wrong,” continued Gasp.
“We have no real alternative to Ilicic, as he has unique characteristics, but we do have options like Papu Gomez or others. I can confirm Duvan Zapata will start, while Luis Muriel is on the bench, because he had flu over the last few days.
“Our pre-season training started on July 10 and we tried to have some big friendlies, but this is the big challenge, to repeat ourselves. We must rediscover our hunger and play to the best of our abilities, but above all be a united group.”