Friday October 23 2020
Gasperini: 'Serie A is tougher this year'

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said Josip Ilicic is ‘ready to play’ and expects a ‘tough game’ against Sampdoria. ‘The level in Serie A has increased’.

After the 4-0 win against FC Midtjylland in the Champions League, Atalanta return to Serie A action against Sampdoria on Saturday.

Gasperini admitted it’s a ‘test of endurance and adaptation’ for his men but emphasised it’s something that comes with playing in Europe.

“It’s an onerous commitment also because there are only a few hours available, but it’s typical for all the teams involved in the Cups and with many players in the national teams,” Gasperini said at a press conference.

“It’s a test of endurance and adaptation on the part of the players. We must recover quickly from one match to the other.

“There will also be Ajax and Liverpool, we must be good.”

Gasperini has one eye on the match against Ajax next week when he prepares for the match against Sampdoria and could therefore introduce some new faces.

“We are in the midst of both the League and the Champions League, and the match against Ajax will be important,” Gasperini said.

“Winning against the Dutch side will give us an important advantage. We are in November, we’ve gone through several training sessions and played several games.

“[Hans] Hateboer and [Robin] Gosens oplay a lot, we need to accelerate the introduction of the new players.

“We have many options up front, in the middle and in defence we know each other better, out wide, it’s clear that we need to insert new elements.

Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel have been regulars in the first weeks of 2020-21 and Gasperini admitted he wanted to start with the players he already knew.

“Compared to last year, Zapata’s availability changed, then for some time we didn’t have [Josip] Ilicic.

“There were fewer alternatives in attack. Muriel was decisive during the game. This year, we started with Josip to recover, [Sam] Lammers arrived last minute: we played it safe, I started with the players I knew.”

“Lammers is more ready [than Aleksej Miranchuk], he has also scored two goals and played more. Let’s see if he will be available today.

“[Aleksej] Miranchuk made a wonderful debut, but he’s more of a player who will enter during the game. [Ruslan] Malinovskyi is better, he is available.”

Gasperini expects a ‘tough game’ and recalls last season’s meeting with Sampdoria.

“All have strengthened, we expect a more balanced championship. None have weakened,” he said.

“Last year was a tough game with many fouls, with many unnecessary and excessive protests, I expect an equally tough match.”

Last time it ended with a 4-1 defeat to Napoli but Gasperini is eager to move on and ‘learn from the mistakes’.

“It can happen, with such a high frequency of matches, we can’t look back. We must learn from the mistakes; we must try to correct them.

“It’s a constant for all teams, it’s a difficult commitment for those who play, not easy to present yourself in the same conditions.

“This year, the championship will be even more difficult, the level has increased.”

Gasperini confirmed Josip Ilicic could be involved against Sampdoria, who the Orobici played in his last game at the Gewiss Stadium.

“He’s a recovered player,” Gasp added. “In Naples he was not helped by the team, as I have already said.

“Now, every time he makes a mistake, someone notices. He annoyed me more before. It’s not that he didn’t make mistakes.

“We have to bring him back to better conditions, he’s a recovered player, I was among the most sceptical but he’s ready to play now.”