Gian Piero Gasperini insists Atalanta “are happy and curious” to enter their Champions League debut with Dinamo Zagreb. “We are not a fluke.”
It kicks off on Wednesday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT) in a group with Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk.
“It’s a positive sensation, because we earned this opportunity on the pitch with an extraordinary campaign,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“For the first time in its history, Atalanta are taking part in this tournament. We are happy to be here and are curious to see what the first impact is with the Champions League. We know it’s a superior level, but at the same time feel confident and eager to see what we can do.
“Our opponents in the group all won their domestic titles in Croatia, Ukraine and England, so they all deserve to be here. Perhaps we’ve got a smaller cachet and fanbase compared to the others, and certainly fewer resources, but that just means we deserved it all the more.
“It’s a group of six games, so this is important, but won’t be decisive. Our objectives are just to do as well as possible.”
Dinamo Zagreb are on a run of 11 consecutive Champions League proper defeats, but got through the preliminary rounds to reach the competition this summer.
“We saw many of their games, both in the preliminary rounds and in their domestic tournaments. We got to know this team, just as they will have got to know us.
“The important thing is to face everyone with our own characteristics, not losing our nature. Both teams will fight for the victory in this match.
“I am sure the atmosphere in Zagreb will be impressive, but we are accustomed to some really big arenas. We’ve played at the Stadio San Paolo, with Borussia Dortmund, at Juventus, in England. We’ve been getting great results for three years, so we are not a fluke.
“We respect Dinamo Zagreb, but the atmosphere won’t be a decisive element in this game.”
Gasperini assured Luis Muriel is likely to feature, although probably only from the bench.
“We don’t want to run any risks and he has only a slight injury. We are confident he’ll be available.
“Mario Pasalic is improving a great deal, but above all this is the first time in his career that he’s stayed with one club for two seasons in a row, so he has started this campaign very positively. I hope he can become important for Croatia, too. It’s good that he scored two goals against Dinamo for Hajduk Split and hope he can score for us too.”
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