Over the course of the week and leading up to the Derby D’Italia, Inter Worldwide will bring you a series of articles outlining our direct rivals for the final UEFA Champions League places. In this edition, Anthony looks to the surprise package of the season, and the ever so deserving & tenacious, Atalanta Bergamo.
How did they get here?
Despite coming into the 18/19 campaign with level headed, optimistic expectations, few would have thought that come match day 33, Atalanta were in a semi-drivers seat to take the 4th spot in the UEFA Champions League qualification process.
Atalanta stuck to their traditional roots by bringing in some fresh, young blood at the start of the season with Inter duo Davide Battella and Marco Carrara both moving across to Bergamo with buy back options. Both men however wouldn’t play a role in this campaign as it was the induction of Sampdoria hitman Duvan Zapata that has been the biggest surge behind the neroazzurri’s fantastic season.
Zapata has scored 21 goals in all competitions for Atalanta this season with his most notable strikes coming in the form of a December double against Juvetnus, scoring four against Frosinone in a 5-0 drubbing, and twice again against Juventus in the quarter final stage of the Coppa Italia.
Along with Colombian, Mario Pasalic is enjoying his fifth loan spell away from English giants Chelsea, having previously been shipped out to the likes of Milan & Monaco. Mario has worn the black & blue 28 times this season for the Bergamo club and has shown himself to be an integral part in Gasperini’s well oiled system.
Another player stamping his authority this campaign is Josip Illicic. The Slovenian has had a stellar season following his 2017 transfer worth about 5.5 million Euro from Fiorentina, with his classy performances gaining the attention of clubs in Europe. This combined with an array of goals and good performances by Josip & now club veteran Papu Gomez, and it isn’t hard to see where the inspiration and impact are coming from.
Where are they now?
Gian Piero Gasperini has done one hell of a job with this side. As we wind down to the business end of the season, Atalanta have their sites firmly set on a European placing and will no doubt be representing the country on an intercontinental scale next season.
The degree of which though, still remains to be seen. Fresh off the back of a 1-2 away win in Napoli, Atalanta will be full of confidence with a fixture list that should provide at least one or two more victories before the conclusion of the campaign. Desirabel fixtures against both Udinese and Genoa come in between the tougher trips to Turin to face the champions and to Rome to play a still fighting Lazio.
If Atalanta can keep themselves grounded and in with a shot at the final match day, they just might be the boys to back in claiming a UCL spot.
RECORD: W16, D8, L9 – 56 Points
LEAGUE POSITION: 5th
DISTANCE BEHIND INTER: 5 points with Atalanta holding the tiebreaker after winning the first leg, and drawing the second.
REMAINING FIXTURES: Udinese (H), Lazio (A), Genoa (H), Juventus (A), Sassuolo (A)
PREDICTED POINTS AND LEAGUE STANDING: 11 points, finishing 5th, 5 points behind INTER.
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–Written by Anthony Privetera