Tuesday July 14 2020
Gasp: 'Atalanta preparing for PSG'

Gian Piero Gasperini admits Atalanta are gearing up towards the Champions League and PSG after a 6-2 hammering of Brescia, but Luis Muriel ‘could’ve been killed.’

La Dea thumped Brescia 6-2 this evening with a Mario Pasalic hat-trick, plus goals from Marten de Roon, Ruslan Malinovskyi and Duvan Zapata.

“That’s nice, isn’t it? That’s a lot,” he told Sky Sport Italia when told no Serie A side since his birth in 1958 scored 93 goals after 33 rounds.

“We scored a lot last season too, but we out-did ourselves this time and they are quality goals, too. We’ve had some goalfests this year, but it’s not to humiliate the opponent, it’s practising the moves, the triangles around the pitch, and those lead to goals.

“We never started the season to play in such elevated positions, but it’s the second year in a row we’re finding ourselves in the top four. Playing in the Europa League and then the Champions League helped us to mature and get accustomed to a different level.

“We are preparing for Paris Saint-Germain, but also want to fight it out to the end in Serie A. I think the best way to be ready for August 12 is to keep playing Serie A games with the right mentality, intensity and focus.

“We’re in the Champions League for next term, second or third place aren’t the main objective, but we can still try while we’re here.”

Josip Ilicic was in the stands for this evening’s game with Brescia, as part of the squad rotation.

“I’m trying to get him back to his best. We all love him and want him to be preserved so he’s fresh as the extra value in our Champions League squad. Having five substitutions is without doubt an added bonus, as we can rotate the squad and not lose the identity of the team.

“I am above all concerned at the potential for injuries. I mean, look at Muriel, he was lucky, because he slipped backwards and whacked the back of his head, that was a really nasty blow. It could’ve been a lot worse, it could’ve killed him… He cut the whole back of his head open, he was fortunate. You can’t really prepare for that sort of eventuality, we can’t be wrapped in cotton wool for weeks.”

Atalanta will take on Paris Saint-Germain in a one-off Champions League match in Portugal on August 12. Should PSG be worried?

“I know PSG are playing two Cup games in France before the Champions League. I don’t know if it’s better to have 13 Serie A games like us or two competitive matches plus some friendlies. We will see,” smiled Gasp.

“It’s like saying we play every three days and are therefore tired, something I don’t believe at all. Similarly, I don’t believe that PSG will be unprepared because they haven’t played.

“I have not yet studied Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, but they are two of the best players in the world. There was a little excessive confidence when we picked Paris Saint-Germain, but we mustn’t forget this is a remarkable team!

“When you face teams of this level, you can examine their strengths, their weaknesses, but you mustn’t change your nature. What I remain certain of is that these games never end 0-0, so if you are to get a result, you have to score a goal.”

Gasperini was annoyed at the two penalties for handball, which allowed Juventus to hold Atalanta 2-2 at the weekend.

“At that moment, and later that night, I was a bit irritated, because we were so close… If I look back at the head-to-head matches we had this season, with Juve, Lazio, Milan and Inter, some of the incidents we were not fortunate with. If those had gone a little bit differently, we might’ve been right up there.

“Considering the status of the table with a few rounds left, I look back to those incidents and we could’ve had a few more points, with them missing a few.”

Hellas Verona coach Ivan Juric said last week that big clubs were ‘stealing’ from Gasperini’s Atalanta, both inside Italy and around Europe.

“If that were true, it’d be an honour! Football is not something you steal from, you learn, take bits and pieces from others, then adapt them to your own vision,” insisted Gasp.

“Ivan is a bit biased, because we worked together for many years! I think at this moment, he is the coach who is most under-rated, because he’s still young and what he’s doing at Verona is so impressive. It’s not just the results, but the quality of the football his team is playing.”

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