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Wednesday September 25 2019
Dea for the taking?

Atalanta's Champions League humbling in Zagreb posed questions about their ambitions as a club, so Emmet Gates asks - are they too small to be big, or too big to be small?

There has been no end to the plaudits bestowed upon Atalanta over the last 18 months. The club, always prized for churning out very good players through their youth academy, won over the hearts and minds of fans and experts alike for their ability to operate cannily in the transfer market with a limited budget and by playing vibrant football under the watchful eye of Gian Piero Gasperini.

However, last week’s sobering 4-0 defeat in their debut Champions League match away to Dinamo Zagreb has brought into question whether Atalanta are fit for purpose in Europe’s elite competition. Are La Dea too small to be big, or too big to be small?

A case could be made that complacency set in ahead of the game against the Croatian champions. Many Atalanta players ahead of the draw for the tournament expressed wishes to be placed in the toughest-possible group. This viewpoint is understandable; some might never again play in the Champions League and want to make the claim of playing against Europe’s heavyweights in matches of substance.

Yet their wish, Manchester City aside, didn’t come true. Drawn in a group with Dinamo and Shakhtar Donetsk, there was now a feeling that they could realistically make it out of the group. Last season, they went undefeated against Juventus in three games, putting them out of the Coppa Italia in the process,  thrashed Inter 4-1 and also beat Napoli at the San Paolo. Why, perhaps went the thinking, would they fear Dinamo and Shakhtar? Second place in the group was there for the taking.

To play devil’s advocate here, there is a chance the opposite happened. Perhaps the pressure of knowing that qualification for the Round of 16 is feasible paralysed the team. Atalanta offered little defensively or offensively in Zagreb, floundering in the two areas of the pitch that they normally excel in. Dinamo’s slick football cut through Gasperini’s defence time and again, and the scoreline could’ve been bigger. The 4–0 defeat was Italy’s heaviest in the competition since Barcelona walloped Roma 6-1 in 2015, during the dying days of the Rudi Garcia era.

But there is reason to be optimistic. During their Europa League voyage two seasons ago, Atalanta found themselves in a group containing Everton, Olympique Lyonnais and Apollon Limassol. Most expected Atalanta to finish third, yet they demolished Everton over two games, with a combined score line of 8-1, and beat Lyon at home to top the group. They narrowly lost to Borussia Dortmund in the last 32, in two thrilling games that ended 4-3 on aggregate to the Germans.

Perhaps the heavy defeat in Zagreb was an aberration, an adjustment period that is necessary when entering the biggest competition in club football for a team with no experience. They face Shakhtar next week at San Siro in the second round of fixtures, and if a similar scenario occurs against the Ukrainian champions then further examinations will be held and we’ll get a better picture of where Atalanta are going as a club. But at this stage, it’s too early to make judgments.

Have your say...
You reasoned that Milan should be in CL instead of Atalanta.
THAT WOULD BE SO UNFAIR.

For last couple of years I have been listening to Milan, Inter fans crying about it.

Teams half your budget, tenth of your name/ legacy beat you and you take it out on them.
It saddens me.
You act like other teams don't have fans.

Milan will raise again.
Be patient.

But also respectful.
Why can't you be happy for a team that plays ITS FIRST CL :)
on the 29th September, 2019 at 2:47am
If Serie A could only send one team to CL.
Would you, as Milan fan, be satisfied that be Juve?

(They are much better than Milan now, have great prospects, new sponsor deals in line... GROWING EXPONENTIALLY..!)

Of course you wouldn't be!!!

It's pointless for me to discuss this further...
Atalanta won 3rd place with style.
They can do whatever they want in CL.

Your team is BIGGER, PRICIER...
Beat underdogs this year and CL is yours!
on the 29th September, 2019 at 2:08am
Luck can be huge factor in CL/ EL...
You can hit 5 croosbars, have 20 shots on goal and still lose 1-0 from opponent's only chance,
Have a one "off-day" and suddenly you're out of competition.
(Napoli 0 -Red Star 0
Roma 3 -Barca 0)
(You can also get to Finals on luck -Tottenham last year)

Off-days and missfortune happen in Serie A...
But it's not that significant as here are MORE GAMES
And no team has 20 misfortunate games.
For 6 years you can't get into top 3??

YOU
ARE
NOT
GOOD
ENOUGH.
on the 29th September, 2019 at 1:37am
UST, Atalanta definitely earned their UCL spot. I just don't think a club like that is structured to continue growing. This isn't a stepping stone for them. What happened to Sampdoria and Udinese those years they qualified? Did they continue investing and establish themselves as perennial UCL participants? NO, they crashed out and now spend their time fighting relegation. Case in point. Btw, playing a league season is different than playing a knockout competition in terms of win probability.
on the 28th September, 2019 at 1:35pm
Of course Roma would do much better in CL than Atalanta:
1. Roma would be in 2nd pot,
2. Additional 50m + would be invested so squad would be better than now
3. As a "bigger" club they would get more revenue, therefore would grow far more yearly...

But should they?


When they get from the group and face Real, then same logic should apply...

Roma shouldn't win and hamper Real's growth --Real would earn far more and get far better players!


So your view is wrong.

Atalanta DESERVES CL!!!
on the 28th September, 2019 at 12:19am
AC Milan Fan,
Serie A is ALSO a competition.

You outspend Atalantas and Lazios...
But still can't snatch fourth from them!
Chance of success should be even higher here as there are 38 games, yet Milan hasn't seen CL for 6 years.

I understand your frustration, as that's too long for a club like Milan...

But you shouldn't point that anger, disappointment towards other teams because of your team's faults/ shortcomings/ wrong decisions...
on the 27th September, 2019 at 11:26pm
AC Milan Fan,
Serie A is ALSO a competition.

You already constantly outspend Atalantas and Lazios...
But still can't snatch fourth from them!
Chance of success should be even higher here as there are 38 games, yet Milan hasn't seen CL for 6 years.

I understand your frustration, as that's too long for a club like Milan...

But you shouldn't point that anger, disappointment towards other teams because of your team's faults/ shortcomings/ wrong decisions...
on the 27th September, 2019 at 11:25pm
@ UST and Ferban. I don't disagree with regards to the current quality on the roster. It's an economic thing. Without CL Milan still outspends Atalanta. So with CL they be able to attract better talent than Atalanta would, therefore having a much higher chance of success. That simple. BTW, Ferban, I have never and will never use "CL DNA". It's a stupid concept. A club is either in it, or not it, but the fact remains Milan, Roma and Lazio have greater economic power and therefore better chances.
on the 27th September, 2019 at 5:36pm
@AC Milan Fan

You might want to quit with the "Milan need to finish 4th" argument

Milan are a joke, and belong nowhere near European competition. Can you imagine them in Europe at the moment? It'd be embarrassing

As United States of Totti said, they couldn't get out of a group with a part-time team in it last year!

As for their "CL DNA" nonsense we hear about, Milan have won 2 of their last 16 CL knockout games since 2008

Milan may return one day, but at this moment, they are a mess
on the 26th September, 2019 at 12:15am
AC Milan Fan,

Why do you think Milan, Roma, Lazio (I can even add Inter and Napoli) would do any better in CL FROM POT 4???

Last year your Milan couldn't even get out of a group with Olympiakos, Betis, Dudelange!!!

In January you cheated with FFP rules-- brought in Piatek, Paqueta...
And STILL couldn't overcome La Dea.

Atalanta is deservedly in CL and our two clubs are not.
on the 25th September, 2019 at 10:43pm
The author's last sentence should have been the first and only sentence.
on the 25th September, 2019 at 9:34pm
We all saw this coming last season. That's why clubs like Milan, Roma or Lazio should have finished 4th...
on the 25th September, 2019 at 1:21pm
They got the group they would have wanted, but that defeat was a real eye-opener for all.

However, Leeds lost 4 - 0 in their CL debut many years ago and got to the semis in the end. Anyone who gives up after one game shouldn't be playing football.

But Shakhtar will have to be beaten in the next game. MC will be tough, but they are poor at the back if Atalanta can get at them.

Still, like Inter, they now have a mountain to climb. At least 7 points are needed from the next 4 games
on the 25th September, 2019 at 12:50pm

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