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Wednesday February 24 2021
Five reasons why Atalanta can beat Real Madrid

Atalanta host Real Madrid this evening and Giancarlo Rinaldi lists the five reasons why Gian Piero Gasperini’s side can shock the Merengues.

There was a time when even to suggest such a thing would have forced you to suppress a derisive snort. To state with any level of credibility that Atalanta - one of Italy’s perennial elevator clubs, shuttling back and forth between Serie A and B - could trouble a member of Europe’s elite like Real Madrid would have provoked nothing more than a chuckle of disbelief. However, like a gig by a bad stand-up comedian, nobody’s laughing now.

It still, in truth, stretches the elastic of your credulity to see the fixture pop up on the Champions League list. Anyone who ever visited Bergamo would struggle to imagine the place - as pleasant as it is - providing a football team to challenge possibly the biggest outfit our continent has ever produced. And yet, just maybe, the boys in blue and black could be capable of springing an almighty surprise. Here are five reasons why it could be possible.

No Papu, No Problem - Atalanta have always been about more than any individual player with a system which sees a few stars sacrificed most summers in order to rebuild with more modest acquisitions.

Nonetheless, when things turned sour with Alejandro Gomez, some suggested they were losing the very mechanism that made this precise football watch tick. However, their form since he last appeared for the club suggests that they are hardly missing him at all.

One defeat in 16 matches has kept them on the fringes of a thrilling Serie A title fight and seen them make serene progress to the Coppa Italia final. The little Argentinian might well be thriving in Sevilla, but they have shown few signs of nostalgia at his old club.

Muriel’s Magic - He has always been a streaky performer, but the Colombian forward has hit an ominous run of form which could spell trouble for a Real Madrid defence shorn of many of its most established performers.

His pace and cunning have outwitted many a back line of late - Napoli his latest victims - in a stellar season. He is on course to surpass his own league goalscoring record and his strike rate per minute played is truly remarkable. Bergamo seems to be bringing the best out of a player who has known his highs and lows in the past and he is just the sort of footballer who can tear any team apart when he is in the mood. Look out for Luis.

Wide Boys - It is no secret that Atalanta like to attack on the flanks and they might have two of the best marauding wide men in the game. Robin Gosens and Hans Hateboer have tortured defenders up and down Italy with their pace and attacking intent and will be looking to wreak similar havoc on the Madrid back line.

The Dutchman has been struggling with injury and looks set to miss out on the first leg at least - Joakim Maehle his likely replacement - but the wide areas remain a key angle of attack for the Serie A side.

In theory, the Spanish team should have the tools to disarm them and force them into defensive duties but that might be easier said than done. Ferland Mendy and Lucas Vazquez - or whoever fills the full-back roles - will have to be on the top of their game to fend them off.

Smarter Side -  A lot of people fell in love with the Lombardy lads last season with their swashbuckling run to the later stages of the Champions League which only narrowly fell short against Paris St Germain in the quarter finals.

What made that run all the more remarkable was just how badly they had started the competition with three defeats - two of them extremely heavy - in their opening group games. However, they are quick learners and have adopted a more pragmatic approach this time around and - while still prone to the odd calamity - they look much more assured this season.

They will still be the undoubted European apprentices compared with their illustrious opponents, but their relative lack of experience does not mean they have not got pretty savvy quite quickly. In short, don’t expect this particular David to be overawed and overpowered by Goliath.

The Fitness Factor -When the draw was made the Madrid giants would have been significant favourites to progress, but the treatment table has not been kind. Reading through the injury list at the Bernabeu takes about as long to digest as War and Peace these days and Zinedine Zidane will be forced to play a makeshift side.

Atalanta, in contrast, have just about all their options to choose from apart from the ailing Hateboer. Such are the reserves of talent at Real that they will still be able to select a starting XI more than capable of getting a result, but their injury crisis certainly narrows the gap a little. The Italian side have made their relentless attacking approach a calling card in the past few years and they are likely to test any weaknesses in the visiting line-up to the full.

Los Blancos are still the more likely to win over the two legs - of that there can be little doubt - but the challenge presented by Giampiero Gasperini’s side is certainly not the kind they can dismiss lightly. Only time will tell who will have the last laugh.

@ginkers

Have your say...
100 reasons why atalanta should just stay at mid or low table!!!!!
they are ruining ecosystem!!!
on the 3rd March, 2021 at 10:18am
Three CL games - three Serie A defeats and two at home. The sending off was harsh and perhaps, just perhaps Juve and Lazio should have been awarded penalties. Before these games were played most would have predicted Juve going through and Lazio and Atalanta going out. Lazio are definitely out whilst Atalanta have a small chance and Juve are 50/50. Another dismal European year for Serie A unfortunately.
on the 25th February, 2021 at 7:03am
I always like watching the italian back and blue in the round of 16 in CL.....i I had to wait for Inter to do it it could take decades to get this far in the competition
on the 24th February, 2021 at 9:15pm
Unfortunately they didn't have the referee....
on the 24th February, 2021 at 8:48pm
many people here saying Atalanta have a good chance of beating Real Madrid because they have injuries,yes they have injuries but none of this Atalanta players will start for real maybe ilicic or gosens even after the injuries look at their midfield.Isco,modric,Kroos,Casemiro.attack Vinicius and asensio they are better then Muriel’s and zapata...Mandy is good defender.and then you have varane world class defender.i hope Atalanta play very physical like they always do then they might have a chance
on the 24th February, 2021 at 7:38pm
They will put up more of a fight then Lazio, that is for sure
on the 24th February, 2021 at 6:22pm
Surely we're all more optimistic about Atalanta's chances than we were Lazio's?

With R Madrid's injuries and the continuing fall of the Spanish clubs, surely now is a great time to beat them.

Hopefully the "great" Atalanta show up, and not the one that got alarmingly dismantled by Napoli several months ago.

And hopefully they don't get blinded by the history of RM. They could really frighten the life out of RM if they don't go all Italian on us and get scared of their own shadow in a Euro tie
on the 24th February, 2021 at 12:20pm
Madrids predicted line up looks week and even the midfield which on paper has 3 top class players looks like it is lacking in energy. If Atalanta can swarm all over Modric, Kroos and Casemiro they could outrun them enough to take control of the game.
on the 24th February, 2021 at 12:16pm
I am not as sure as the writer in regards to Real Madrid would still be more likely to win over the two legs. If Atalanta can capitalize tonight and have enough cushion for the return leg, I fancy them to progress. But they have to make a statement win tonight while Real is missing heaps of their first choice players. Good luck, La Dea!
on the 24th February, 2021 at 12:00pm
Reason #1 - Madrid only have like 12 senior players travelling. If Atalanta don't win they've got bigger problems than people realise.
on the 24th February, 2021 at 11:47am

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