Ajax stands for a crucial Champions League competition in Italy: Atalanta Bergamo is the opponent of the Amsterdammers on Tuesday at 21:00 p.m., who relied on a record victory at VVV-Venlo last weekend. Yet Atalanta is the big favourite, argues club watcher Matteo Spini in conversation with football primer.Spini works at LEco, the largest newspaper in Bergamo and its surroundings. In recent years, he witnessed Atalantas impressive transformation from anonymous Serie A middlemoter to Champions League revelation. “It has been a process of years,” Spini tells this website.
“Atalanta is a strong club with responsible accounting, great scouting and great knowledge of the transfer market. Not to mention: a trainer and a group of players that fit perfectly together. Atalanta surprised everyone and everyone during the 2016/2017 season, and thats what the club leadership has stepped up by reinforcing each transfer period with targeted purchases.”
Every year, Atalanta took a step: from fourth place in 2017 to the first good Europe League season in 2017/2018, to third place in 2019 and 2020. “And now Atalanta is a big club in Italy and is dreaming of the Scudetto,” says Spini, who praises trainer Gian Piero Gasperini as mastermind of Atalanta. He uses an old system with new accents.
“Gasperini wants to create one-on-one situations everywhere. Intensity is the key: Atalanta runs, runs and runs, more than other teams. The difference with other Italian teams is very large, in Europe it is less. I think Atalantas style is very European compared to the other teams in Serie A. Over the years, the level has risen: now Atalanta has many fast technical players and they have started to play more and more attacking. That means they have some defensive difficulties.”
The defense is Atalantas Achilles heel. “The attack is great, but it means they have to allow many opportunities in the back. Atalanta often goes down for that reason. In Serie A, its easy to fight back, but not in Europe. Ajax needs to start well and hurt the opponent immediately: in that case it will be difficult for Atalanta.”
Yet in Bergamo there is a lot of optimism towards the Champions League squatter against Ajax, despite the defeat against Sampdoria (1-3) and monster victory of Ajax (0-13). “Atalanta is always lucky with lotteries and the supporters think they have a big chance this year too. Midtjylland is weak, Liverpool is top and Ajax is not of the Atalanta level. People see it as a challenge here, but Atalanta is the favourite.”
When asked which players should fear Ajax Tuesday evening, Spini answers: “Every attacker deserves attention. Papu Gomez is the captain and most important player: he runs a lot and has special qualities. Duvan Zapata doesnt stick in his best shape, but is always a danger. And its waiting for Josip Ilicic. He is a top player, but has been out of circulation for a long time (personal problems, red.) and has only just returned. In the defense, Rafael Tolói stands out and on the left Robin Gosens is very important. He scores a lot too.”
Terzo premio MVP @Seriea in 4 mesi consegnato 🏅 Complimenti #PapuGomez! 👏🏼 Third @SerieA_EN MVP award delivered in 4 months 🤝 Congrats Papu! 👏🏼 #GoAtalantaGo ⚫️🔵 pic.twitter.com/zcy6Qtazjt
— Atalanta B.C. (@Atalanta_BC) October 25, 2020
In any case, Ajax will not be a chance: Dusan Tadic in particular compels respect from the Italians. “Yes, everyone immediately thinks of Tadic, because Atalanta suffers from top players with a lot of quality in the attack. Also fast players can be a problem for Atalantas defense. So its beware of Antony, for example,” concludes Spini.
(Ruben shops/football scoop)