Saturday February 27 2021
Gasperini: 'I won't play Ilicic like this'

Gian Piero Gasperini is still fuming that Atalanta’s clash with Real Madrid was ‘ruined’ by the referee and has a warning for Josip Ilicic, but urges his men to focus on Sampdoria.

It kicks off on Sunday at 11.30 GMT, click here for a match preview.

The focus was still inevitably on the Champions League 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid and the excessively harsh Remo Freuler red card after just 18 minutes.

“On Wednesday we had to play almost exclusively in defence after going down to 10 men,” said the coach in his press conference.

“We allowed Real Madrid very little in the circumstances and hoped to bring home the 0-0, even if it wasn’t the game we wanted to play. This too is football, it happened against Lazio too, but it’s a pity we conceded that late goal. The thing that upset us the most was that it ruined the game, we never really got to play the Champions League Round of 16 with Real Madrid.

“It’s a difficult result, but we have time to prepare for the second leg and we’ll give it our all.”

When asked if that result and the events around it left Atalanta feeling deflated, Gasp had a different take.

“I think it could be the opposite. Clearly, we used up a lot of energy, but we’ve always been good at spreading our focus throughout the competitions. Tomorrow’s game with Sampdoria is important for Serie A, there’s no point thinking about Real Madrid now."

Gasperini will be in the stands tomorrow due to a touchline ban for insulting the officials.

“I might have many faults, but I don’t hold a grudge. Having said that, I tend to have problems with the fourth official more than the coach… The fourth official is a strange role, he pretends not to hear when he wants to, then gets upset over something else entirely!

“We’ve often had trouble against Sampdoria, in fact we lost important points against the teams in the lower half of the table, partly because we met them straight after Champions League games.

“Serie A is pretty tight at the moment, we’re all crammed in there, so we know the importance of tomorrow’s game.”

Gasperini surprised many by introducing Josip Ilicic as a substitute during the Real Madrid match and then hauling him off again after making no impact.

“Ilicic has to be in good shape and we can’t play him when he’s in these conditions. I always hope a player like him can deliver, but I realise now he has to do well in training and complete those sessions in order to get back into the team.

“I do think there is too much talk about Josip, the team doesn’t depend entirely on him.”