Thursday March 5 2020
Atalanta success not a surprise

Martin Mork believes Atalanta’s rout of Valencia and run in the Champions League shouldn’t be considered a surprise, given how hard La Dea have worked…

Atalanta travel to Valencia to play their return leg of the last 16 in the Champions League behind closed doors amid fears of the coronavirus. But an empty Mestalla could help La Dea by the fact that it will only be 11 against 11 on the pitch in Spain. The fans can’t push Los Che towards an incredible comeback and if Valencia were to bounce back from a 4-1 defeat at San Siro, they would go against all expectations. But isn’t that what La Dea have already done?

Gian Piero Gasperini was struggling to get going when first appointed in 2016, but President Antonio Percassi stood by him and believed in the project. When the Bergamaschi steamrolled their Spanish opponents in the first leg last month, the fans witnessed an historic moment and history in the making for a club that has always been drained for talent in almost every transfer market.

The sustainability in the Atalanta academy has made the big clubs chase down the talent produced in Bergamo even before they break through on the first team – look at Dejan Kulusevski’s transfer to Juventus this season.

And most remarkably, Gasperini has been able to create a team that are willing to fight for the Nerazzurri colours despite being paid pennies compared to the other teams participating among the elite of European football. Nobody gave them a chance in the same group as Manchester City, but they could be on their way to the quarter-finals, where Champions League betting offers can turn small winnings into bigger prizes.

And with such a run in the Champions League this term, after arguably having opened the eyes of the big clubs on the continent through their previous performances in the Europa League, they could get robbed by foreign clubs alike going forward.

Gasperini almost seems arrogant when he claims La Dea “wanted to prove themselves” after their first appearance in the knockout stages of the prestigious tournament. The horrible start in the group stage is all but forgotten and they have confidently run ragged most of their opponents in Serie A lately. Atalanta don’t really care for defending, even against the most talented of oppositions and are showing great confidence in their performances.

But their current obstacle have great experience in Europe and Atalanta must convince once again after letting an away goal halter the celebrations a tad. Valencia star Dani Parejo has already warned them that Los Che have previously proven to respond and bounce back from similar difficulties.

But it will be tough for the home side if Hans Hateboer and Josip Ilicic follow up on their performances from the first leg. Those were the two players who really stood out, with Hateboer scoring a brace and officially voted Man of the Match by UEFA, whilst Ilicic arguably played his best game in Europe since his arrival in Bergamo (even better than his performance in the 3-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League in 2018), also scoring his first goal in the competition with a lovely curler from outside of the box.

Duvan Zapata was benched in the first tie and Ilicic linked up with Mario Pasalic and Papu Gomez in attack, but the Colombian, who has been out injured for most part of the season, responded with a hat-trick against Lecce in Serie A during an impressive 7-2 win last weekend, making sure Gasp’s luxury problem will provide a thumping headache ahead of the decider in the round of 16.

Ilicic and Gomez helped tear open the Valencia defence in Milan and with Zapata implemented in a trio against Lecce, they looked unstoppable. Have in mind that they also have a joker in Luis Muriel, who has scored 13 goals in 22 Serie A games and already contributed with a goal in the Champions League this term.

Gasperini is right, though, because the Dea have proved themselves time after time and have established themselves among the top teams in Italy. But we are still talking about them as a surprise.

Captain Alejandro Gomez claimed it would be so incredible that he would “jump in a parachute” if the Orobici qualify for the semi-finals of the Champions League this term and he knows how dangerous it could be to take for granted that Valencia are already beaten and to look beyond three games of the competition. The sensible arrogance with a mixture of confidence and humility could be the key, because nothing seems impossible for the Orobici.

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Have your say...
I hope in a year or two, they sell major players and their coach moved out. And then Atalanta will be the small team they used to be.
They are destroying serie-A ecosystem
on the 7th March, 2020 at 5:15am
if i was a gambler id put some coin on them just for lucks sake. never know... could even make finals. wouldnt be much of shocker as they destroying teams in league, and seem to be a total WILDCARD in CL.
either get team that can score 7-10 goals at will or team that chokes, clams up draws 0-0 or lose 2-0.
on the 6th March, 2020 at 6:38pm
Agnelli is simply being himself: arrogant yet fearful. Fearful of an emerging powerhouse that is getting stringer with each CL contest. Agnelli is not stupid he sees the Bergamo club as a real threat and capitalists are out to crush competition not create it. Football badly needs a Salary Cap because fans of the Atalantas, Torinos, Sampodoria, Lecces etc would get to see THEIR club side at the TOP every now and then and opponents like Juventus and Inter struggling mid-table. What a change!!
on the 6th March, 2020 at 10:10am
If Angelli was so worried about the Italian coefficient why did he allow corrupt Juvirus Platini to introduce Farcical Fair Play in an attempt to keep the Milan clubs out of the champions league 10 years ago, BTW it is obvious from the Jan 2020 transfer window, and previous season's windows that Juvirus have an 'influence' over Roma.
on the 6th March, 2020 at 9:11am
With Agnelli and Juventus it is all $$$$ sporting behaviour and health of the fansdoes not matter. By his reckoning AC Milan (7 wins) should be top seeds in the CL, Inter should be second seeds (3 wins) and Juventus third or fourth seeds (along with Notts Forest) Well the last 10 years would definately have been easier on the Milan clubs, they would not have had to deal with corrupt Juvirus Platini's FFP. I see the ECHR has kicked out his appeal.
on the 6th March, 2020 at 5:40am
Atalantas history > Juve's checkered history of cheating including being stripped of a scudetto. How dare you Agnelli.
on the 5th March, 2020 at 10:31pm
The true black and blue team of Italy ! The team who did not have to spend over 150 million not to mention hire an 11 million dollar coach to reach 3rd place after dismal 6th 9th 5th 8th 4th 7th 4th 4th finishes and don't forget, Atalanta made it past the CL group stage on their first try and some other Black and blue team in Italy will take at least 10 years just to do that !!
on the 5th March, 2020 at 10:26pm
Forza Atalanta! Definitely have caught a break getting to play 2nd leg in an empty house in Valencia, but they deserve it, a team that plays incredibly entertaining football with no fear. Hopefully they can be this years Ajax.
on the 5th March, 2020 at 8:24pm

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