Thursday February 20 2020
Atalanta making Europe Gasp

Atalanta are ripping up the book of clichés about Italian teams in the Champions League and Giancarlo Rinaldi is enjoying the ride along with them.

In the accepted wisdom of Champions League football, the first leg of a knockout tie is supposed to be a cagey affair. Add an Italian team into the mix, and we are usually told to expect the soporific to drowsily outweigh the spectacular. But this Atalanta side is ripping up the book of clichés about Italian teams in Europe one by one in the most audacious fashion.

Having waited more than a quarter of a century for their return to continental action, they have played like a club that is going to enjoy itself no matter what. And they have stuck to their ideals when - after a dreadful start to the group stages - it would surely have been easier to take a more pragmatic approach. Neutrals everywhere will raise a glass of something sparkling to such a refreshing attitude. It is in serious danger of taking the boys from Bergamo into the last eight of one of the most prestigious competitions in the game.

Anyone who hasn’t been watching Giampiero Gasperini’s troops might have been surprised by the fare they dished up at San Siro, but those of us who have been paying closer attention know exactly what they are capable of. With Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic pulling the strings, almost anything is possible. Yes, they offer chances that better sides will punish, but boy do they display a positive mental attitude in their constant pursuit of goalscoring opportunities.

There was some sloppiness at the back, but we can surely cut them some slack for that. They occasionally risked playing themselves into trouble, but that is part of their attraction too. From time to time, their ambition to play in swashbuckling style sees them overreach but - in a sport which can so often be stultifying - there is something to admire even in that imperfection. And when it works, like it did against Valencia, it is a joy to watch.

With Robin Gosens and two-goal hero Hans Hateboer bombing forward at every opportunity - even when they were miles clear - there is a carefree swagger to the Bergamaschi that feels like an antidote to so much modern football. While the majority of the teams remaining in the competition seem shackled by their hopes of winning it, Atalanta are unencumbered by such concerns. They are just enjoying the ride - and so should we.

Make no mistake, though, it doesn’t happen by chance. This is a team that works hard, has a plan and a group of players that buys into it. They could be awkward customers for a rival with greater expectations should they progress to the quarter-finals.

That slight doubt, of course, is the flipside to their aggressive, attacking attitude - it does leave the door open to a potential turnaround in the second leg. They handed the Spanish side a fair few chances in this tie and it means they could concede some goals in the away game. However, who would bet against the boys in blue and black scoring more of their own?

There’s something that even Italian teams with bigger histories could learn from the Atalanta approach. They are no respecters of reputation and go out to try to impose their play on an opponent - not always with success - regardless of who they might be. This contrasts with the safety-first approach which has sometimes seen Serie A sides go out of Europe with a whimper rather than a bang. If you believe, you may not always achieve, but it is at least fun trying.

The whole house might come crashing down - much as it did earlier in the competition - in the return match of this clash, for sure. But you get the feeling that this team will have stuck to its principles whatever the outcome might be. They are swinging for the fences in Bergamo these days and - regardless of the end result - it is a pleasure to watch.

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Have your say...
@Interista23. Who is to say that Lazio wouldn't have dropped points if they'd made an effort in the EL? You basically justify their decision. By focusing on the league they're able to mount a title challenge. Otherwise they'd likely be in distant 3rd. Who is to say that Atalanta wouldn't be higher in the table had they done the same? Maybe a title challenge too? They were outside the top 4 a couple of months ago. Roma's collapse and Napoli's MIA have aided them.
on the 21st February, 2020 at 8:58pm
There are not more than 2 Italians in this Atalanta Side. hence they are a open world team hence they have no Italian approach to the game.The best players in this team are most certainly not Italian players. This is an Italian club yes, but those taking it forward are not Italian. percentage wise
80% foreign and 20% Italian with adding the management and coach.
on the 21st February, 2020 at 1:19pm
Great to watch

Pity their defence is poor, because if they get past Valencia (no guarantee, but they should score out there), they might really struggle against the attack of a Liv/MC/RM/Barca

Now they're in with a real shout of the last 8 now, and maybe the semis

What an ache it must be for Milan fans to watch Atalanta in Europe while their own team live off ancient memories of the CL

If Atalanta do manage to win in Spain, they'll have won as many CL K/O games as Milan have in 13 years.
on the 21st February, 2020 at 9:28am
The commentator kept saying one Italian player in the Atalanta line up but infact it there was two -Gollini and Caldara. Lazio's performance is strange going out in the EL against teams like Celtic but yet they are handing out l's in Serie A. For Napoli it's going to be a hard one figuring out who's more unpredictable them or Barcelona. I figure the former.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 9:59pm
What a great night, so easy to fall in love with this Atalanta team (and I'm a Juve fan). They play with no fear which is just so refreshing (especially as a Juve fan :-) ). I'm still nervous that it could go all wrong at the Mestella, but they (and we) will always have last night regardless of the 2nd leg outcome. And in fairness "Sanrella", they had 2 Italians in the starting line-up, Gollini and Caldara. Forza Atalanta, keep the dream rolling into the quarter finals!
on the 20th February, 2020 at 7:04pm
The team is good but what a joke calling them an Italian team with only the goalie being Italian. All European teams should be made to play at least half their teams with natural citizens.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 6:24pm
@Hahaha I'm not jealous of anyone. I'll be cheering Atalanta all the way, hopefully to the final. And I'll be cheering for Napoli too, for the next 180 mins of their CL existence. Lazio "not prioritizing" EL is just cowardice. Atalanta have less money and a shallower squad than even Lazio and they've approached every comp. with the same great attitude, AND are still making their targets in the league. Given the points being dropped by we and Rube, Lazio COULD have managed the EL too. FACT.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 5:25pm
@ The Grand Old Lady Rocks to JUVE - Exactly!! There is also the shopping centre just outside the arirport across the motorway. Newly refurbished!!
on the 20th February, 2020 at 4:03pm
A fearless team and a fearless manager are a dangerous combination.
As Dylan said "when you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose"
Beware Champions league if you underestimate this team, they are hungry and confident and play with a joyful aggresion that bring joy to the game.
Do Not think for a moment that the so called giants of the league are not vulnerable to defeat, the teams on this level may not be level on talent but when it comes to desire and confidence,it will be the difference.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 3:17pm
FI - How about an article about UEFAlona's disgraceful behaviour with regards to the Braithwaite 'injury replacement' signing and while you are at it their part in the Louie Barry saga also? It makes dodgy things that happen in Italy pale into insignificance in comparison.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 2:02pm
Atalanta BC are a southerly change on a stiffling hot night! What a refreshing cambio what they do to one's heart rate!Seriously Atalants BC are the only reason I follow Serie A Calcio and Football at all!! Even more Atalanta give hope to the Hellas Veronas Bolognas and Parmas et al who can dream of being the next discovery. Memo to all struggling clubs: get yourselves a smart aggressive different type of coach and a good set of scouts/Football Manager and presto!
on the 20th February, 2020 at 12:36pm
Its very enjoyable watching an aggressively positive Atalanta in the Champions league. They were 4-0 up and yet still there was a feeling they could concede 5 and lose the game in the next 10 mins! But they still replace a defender with a forward... Crazy but brilliant and long may it last. There is a lot more to Bergamo than the Airport!
on the 20th February, 2020 at 12:28pm
What a wonderful free flowing display of attacking football from Atalanta. They were a joy to watch. What is concerning though, is they can be very vulnerable in defence. They gifted Valencia a cheap away goal. I am pretty sure, Gasp will ask them to play the same way they did at home. Bar a complete collapse, I think the Bergamaschi are good to go through over the two legs.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 11:19am
@ Anon - then why does no big club want Immobile? What Lazio are doing is admirable but big clubs are only interested in Lazzari and SMS, whereas there are 5/6 Atalanta players of interest to big clubs. Lazio will need to invest heavily to have a chance of qualifying for knock out in CL next year, but FFP will hinder them.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 10:47am
Teams like Atalanta bring the romance back to football and save it from the usual suspects like Real Madrid etc who always make it to the later stages.Football needs this because all too often money talks.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 10:26am
4-1 was maybe not a true reflection of the game.Atalanta were sloppy at the back and Valencia had 17 attempts on goal.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 10:24am
Interista, Lazio's pub team dominated Inter last weekend and made Lukaku and Lautaro look like Sunday league players. Without £200m of talent on the bench clearly the Europa League isn't a priority for Lazio after we were robbed of a champions league place 2 years ago.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 10:24am
Only the goalkeeper last night was Italian.WTF?
on the 20th February, 2020 at 10:23am
Every neutral must enjoy their ride as long as it lasts. Along with Leicester's Premier League winning run and even Ajax's CL run to the semis, it's these underdog stories that make football as beautiful as it is. No amount of budget in Hollywood could make a story as beutiful and satisfying as these.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 10:12am
Serie A teams need to take both EL and CL serious.
Atalanta is the Ajax team of this year. I really hope the progress to the next round and earn an extra 15-20 mill.
I think they need to score once in Spain and I am pretty sure it's possible.
They also realized the importance of a new stadium too and will benefit from it economically.
Lazio, Roma and Napoli should build their own 51.000 seater stadiums.
Fiorentina 41.000
The Milan clubs 63.000.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 9:58am
Great Atalanta ....and guess what. The rubbish bin referee didnt affect the result whatsoever.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 6:40am

Conte and our players are a waste of oxygen. Hahahahaha....!! Epic comment!

You can stop right there. YES! INTER IS TRASH and a jealous fan who wants Juve and Napoli out of CL is also trash.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 5:35am
instead of shaming other teams, why don't you concentrate on your own, or just praise the one that deserves? I would say that "neriazzuri" finally made San Siro stadium proud. pun intended... Lazio is doing magnificent job from the team Simone has at hand, and crappy europa league gives 10 times less money than CL... as an example: you earn almost double the money from just being in group stage than winning whole EL competition, and right or wrong money drives everything nowadays.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 3:31am
Atalanta have put the entirety of Calcio to shame, and good on them. It's embarrassing to see Lazio crushing Serie A having looked like a pub team in the EL group stage. Conte and our players are a waste of oxygen. Roma are a joke that never gets old. The Agnelli Family Mafia has no power outside of Italy, so they'll get beat by RB Leipzig or someone, and you know Napoli will get humiliated by the worst Farcelona team in years. Good luck Atalanta, you're the only one that deserves any!
on the 20th February, 2020 at 1:11am
Atalanta are an absolute joy to behold. An inspiration. A reminder that well managed team, that gets the best out of its players, can reach for the stars.
on the 20th February, 2020 at 12:31am

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