Gian Piero Gasperini confirms Papu Gomez is rested and Josip Ilicic ‘has to step up a gear’, as Atalanta prepare for Udinese and Ajax.
The Serie A tie kicks off on Sunday at 14.00 GMT, click here for a match preview.
As reported, Gomez and Ilicic are not even in the squad for the Udinese trip following tension in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Midtjylland.
“It has become difficult for us to play with three players leaving the defensive zone, so we are trying to find solutions that can protect the midfield,” said Gasperini in his press conference.
“I think Gomez played 190 out of my 200 games in Bergamo. I think he’ll continue to do what he has done so far. I am the coach, the team must know that it’s looked after.
“When I make decisions… Papu has always been extraordinary for me, especially in recent years. He was incredible, but there are moments that happen, as it did the other night.
“I think it’ll do him good to get some rest, he needs a few days to distract himself so he can be ready for Amsterdam.
“As for Josip, I need to rediscover the best Ilicic. I’ve been working with him for some time now, but he needs to send me a signal too. He has to step up a gear.
“We’ll see other players against Udinese. I make my choices for the good of the team, to find a solution.”
Despite the stuttering results in Serie A and the Champions League, the coach assures he sees no reason to press the panic button.
“I am not so concerned. We had some great performances and conceded fewer goals than last year. There were moments of fatigue, but I think the lads are doing alright.
“It was an important point against Midtjylland and allows us to go to Amsterdam with two out of three results allowing qualification.
“I am tired of referring to the past. This is a different season, a very unusual one for everyone with no fans and a different schedule.
“If we go through to the Round of 16, that’ll be a huge success, but it’s not as if we’re aiming to win the Champions League. If we fail, the worst thing that’ll happen is playing in the Europa League, so hardly a disaster.
“I don’t want all this negativity to come down on the team.”