Gian Piero Gasperini is relishing the first game of the season at the new Gewiss Stadium, as Atalanta host Lecce, but stands up for Josip Ilicic.
It kicks off on Sunday at 14.00 UK time (13.00 GMT), click here for a match preview.
This is an historic occasion, as it represents the first time Atalanta have played at the new Gewiss Stadium. Only one end has been reconstructed and work will continue next year, but the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia naming rights have already been handed over.
“Any team gets more points at home than away, so obviously I prefer to play on our own turf and our fans prefer it too,” said the Coach in his Press conference.
“It’s also logistically better, as we tended to leave the day before and then arrive home the next morning, or deep into the night. It hasn’t gone badly for us, all things considered.
“The team has improved since the start of the season and so far the only game we got really wrong was Dinamo Zagreb. We lost to Shakhtar Donetsk, but I thought that was our best performance of the season and the result didn’t reflect that at all.
“We were able to play our football against a second-tier team in the Champions League. It’s all new for us in Europe, so we learn from every match.
“Tomorrow is very important for us and I will use the best available XI. Lecce have a lot of enthusiasm, they’ve won away to difficult sides like SPAL and Torino. It won’t be easy and they are particularly courageous on their travels.
“The newly-promoted sides are really tough this season, as Brescia and Hellas Verona are also playing very well. The level of technique is very high and they are not to be underestimated.”
Atalanta had taken the lead against Shakhtar Donetsk at San Siro through Duvan Zapata, but Ilicic had a penalty saved and the Ukrainians snatched a 2-1 victory in stoppages.
“I can confirm Simon Kjaer will start tomorrow. I think there’s been too much criticism of Josip, as he is a special player with unique characteristics and is for us irreplaceable.
“I see people pushing for Ruslan Malinovskyi to start, but it’s a bit excessive. We need something very special to move Papu Gomez, Duvan Zapata and Ilicic from the starting XI.”
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