Atalanta dominated the match with numerous chances, including two big Hans Hateboer misses, a goal-line clearance and series of Bartlomiej Dragowski saves, but somehow Empoli earned a point.
The Orobici needed a win to keep up with Milan in fourth place and stay ahead of Roma, so Duvan Zapata returned after missing the Inter draw through suspension, but Rafael Toloi was still side-lined. Robin Gosens got the nod rather than Timothy Castagne on the left. Empoli were stuck in the bottom three and had Domenico Maietta suspended, with Antonino La Gumina, Matias Silvestre, Marko Pajac and Kevin Diks injured, so gave 20-year-old Greek defender Dimitris Nikolaou his surprise debut.
It was Empoli who had the first real chance within three minutes, as Diego Farias sprinted forward and forced a low one-handed save from Pierluigi Gollini.
Atalanta incredibly failed to score on nine minutes, as Josip Ilicic volleyed the assist on a silver platter for Hans Hateboer, who somehow nodded over the bar from point-blank range. If he had simply not moved and let the cross hit him, that would’ve gone in.
Empoli’s injury problems intensified when Luca Antonelli limped off in tears with a suspected thigh strain, making way for Manuel Pasqual.
The pace of Farias wreaked havoc again, forcing a desperate Jose Luis Palomino block, while Marten de Roon’s snapshot from distance was beaten away.
Atalanta had a triple chance on 26 minutes, as first Bartlomiej Dragowski parried a Remo Freuler striker, then Frederic Veseli cleared the Duvan Zapata follow-up off the line and Traore got away with a risky control off his shoulder.
It turned into a siege, but Ilicic failed to make the most of a Dragowski error and Gianluca Mancini’s glancing header flashed wide.
Empoli were extremely fortunate not to go behind, yet also very unlucky to lose Farias to injury as well before half-time.
Hateboer managed to miss another chance from close range, although this one was trickier, as he went for the volley at the back post on a Papu Gomez cross.
Duvan Zapata’s ferocious angled drive forced a tough Dragowski save, and the goalkeeper stuck out a foot to deny Hateboer’s effort. On 55 minutes, Hateboer peeled away for a precise downward header at the far stick on a Gomez free kick and Dragowski managed an extraordinary reaction save.
When Dragowski did misjudge the cheeky chipped Gomez cross, Duvan Zapata couldn’t get a clean header under pressure.
Ilicic blasted over from a smart Duvan Zapata cut-back and Mancini’s over-head kick whistled wide, then the Colombian couldn’t get his toe to a taut Hateboer ball across the six-yard box.
Despite everything, Empoli had a great opportunity to win it in the final eight minutes, only for Giovanni Di Lorenzo to scuff the finish from 10 yards.
Dragowski got behind a Papu Gomez snapshot and 18-year-old Primavera youth team striker Roberto Piccoli received his Serie A debut for Atalanta.
Ilicic twisted and turned before unleashing a screamer at the near post, stinging Dragowski’s gloves. On the resulting short corner, Mancini tried a sensational back-heel flick on Musa Barrow’s shot and Dragowski just about got it under control.
Atalanta had 32 shots in this game, 18 of them on target, yet it ended 0-0.
See the latest Serie A predictions and betting tips with Eurotips.co.uk