Saturday August 31 2019
Gasp: 'Guardiola invited me...'

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini prepares for Torino and reveals Manchester City Coach Pep Guardiola’s gesture of kindness many years ago.

It kicks off on Sunday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT), click here for a match preview.

This is no ordinary season for the Orobici, as for the first time they are in the Champions League, drawn in a group with Manchester City, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb.

“We feel confident, but mustn’t be too confident,” said Gasp in his Press conference.

“Shakhtar have caused many teams problems in recent years and are the favourites to go through with Manchester City. Clearly, it’s a group where on paper we do have the possibility of picking up some points.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Guardiola before and I consider him the best. He’s a great person. When I was fired by Inter in 2011, Guardiola invited me to Barcelona to attend some training sessions and he really helped me get over that disappointment.

“It was a lovely gesture, but having said that, I’d have preferred not to face him in the group stage! In my view, they are the favourites to win the Champions League, but then that is a very restricted group of clubs who can even think about that.”

As for this weekend and Serie A, Atalanta are up against a Torino side who had their own European disappointment, going out of the Europa League play-offs to Wolves on Thursday.

“The Champions League is somewhere we want to impress, but what really matters is Serie A. We showed our strength by fighting back from 2-0 down to beat SPAL 3-2, now we’re facing a Torino side who played very well at Wolverhampton. We already get the feeling this season is in full swing.

“Torino had a big opportunity in Europe, but were unlucky with the draw. At least they won’t have midweek games to worry about now.”

Atalanta crashed out of the Europa League play-offs a year ago only to become a sensation in Serie A, so could Toro follow in their footsteps?

“It’s not easy to repeat what Atalanta achieved and it won’t be easy for anyone, including us.”

The Stadio Azzurri d’Italia is undergoing restructuring work, so Atalanta will play their Serie A home games at the Stadio Tardini in Parma and the Champions League fixtures at San Siro in Milan.

“We’re accustomed to travelling around by now and hope they’ll bring us as much luck as the Mapei Stadium did in the past. Sooner or later, we’ll get to play in Bergamo.”

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