Unlikely Champions League Success
Atlanta was coming off their best season in club history. A club with very minimal history now they have the expectations on their back and have the opportunity to go to battle with the the biggest clubs in Europe’s Elite competition. Atalanta had never even sniffed the Champions League before and now they were going to have to deal with things that many people believed they would not be equipped to deal with. Atalanta’s ground in Bergamo was not approved buy UEFA to participate in the Champions League. Luckily enough Atalanta was able to play their matches in Europe at the San Siro as AC Milan and Inter Milan offered up their Stadium to Atalanta so they can participate in the competition. It wasn’t necessarily ideal but they had to do what was necessary to make it work. Atalanta has worked on their Stadium since so they can be improved for next year’s Champions League campaign. They made history and did something absolutely extraordinary the previous season finishing third and getting into the Champions League. This was going to be way more challenging then anything they had done before. It was going to take a lot out of them. Many believe they did not have what it takes to compete in Europe in their debut campaign in the Champions League. They had no experience or history in the competition and they just had to try to make the best of the situation. They struggled significantly from the very beginning even though it turned around for them. The critics criticism was fair as Atalanta got off to a horrendous start despite being drawn into a reasonable group that they all were capable of getting out of. They were drawn with Pep Guardiola Manchester City the Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk and the Croatian’s Dinamo Zagreb. According to the quality of their team Atalanta had a great chance to qualify for the round of 16 and at the very least finishing third which would take them into the Europa League round of 32. Based on talent and ability they had more than enough to get the job done but the lack of experience showed from the very beginning. In The Opening match a group C Atalanta got absolutely embarrassed. Dinamo Zagreb boat raced them . It was a 4-0 annihilation as they started their Champions League campaign rather ingloriously. In fairness the match was played in Croatia and maybe it was that. Its really rough part of Europe and a really difficult place to play. In their second match they did not find things any easier at Milan at the San Siro Atalanta actually took the lead in that game. Duvan Zapata Italy’s best player ended up scoring his first Champions League goal. However they lacked certain components that you would need in the Champions League. Against Shakhtar Donetsk despite falling behind the Ukrainian side score right before halftime and then scored a game-winning goal in the 95th minutes that handed Atalanta’s a second consecutive loss in the Champions League. The lack of experience looked like it was really haunting them. After their third match of the group stage it looked all but over for the hopefuls from Bergamo. At the Etihad Stadium in Manchester against Pep Guardiola’s City. Ruslan Malinovsky gave Atlanta the lead before Manchester City would score five consecutive goals in another embarrassing display it just looked like Atalanta we’re not ready for this. They dropped their first three games of the champions league and even though technically there was still a chance for them to qualify it looked all but over at that point they had only scored two goals while having conceded 11. The next time Manchester City came to the San Siro despite the citizens taking a lead in the game through Raheem Sterling Atlanta managed against the odds securing a point. Despite the fact that they probably should have won the game as Kyle Walker ended up having to play in goal after a red card nonetheless it was a point that they took. They had a chance and they turned it around beating Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk and their final two fixtures of the group stage to qualify for The Knockout stage despite having not played up to their standard and showing some lack of experience in the group. In another group they surely would not have made it through but it just seemed like a team of destiny but luck certainly helped them. They ended up drawing Valencia in the round of 16 a very winnable match up for Atlanta. In the first leg of the round of 16 against Valencia at the San Siro The Lads from Bergamo brought it crushing the Spanish side 4-1. It wasn’t over as Valencia ended up getting an away goal but in the second leg at the estadio Mestalla Josip Ilicic had a performance for the ages scoring four goals in a 4-3 victory as Atlanta held on to clinch a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. From losing their first three games of the group to getting to a Champions League quarter-finals it has been an incredible European Journey so far. This season and a competition was suspended due to the Coronavirus so it’s unclear how this story ends but given where they came from to where they are it has been absolutely astounding from being promoted in 2010 to a Champions League quarter-final in 2020. What this team has been able to do is just remarkable it has not ended yet as there could be even more history attached to this story in European football. Atalanta was not taken seriously but believe me the reputation has grown in Europe we all understands that they are a force to be reckoned with will they win the Champions League? Probably not but is a semi-final Within Reach I don’t see why not this is a team you just do not underestimate because every single time along the way they have been proven right.
Attacking Football and the Scudetto
Atalanta has become one of the most dangerous team offensively in World football. They are significantly the most dangerous attacking team in Italian football and can rival Liverpool and others in Europe. This is something they have developed over the last couple of seasons. They may not have the depth of teams like Liverpool and Manchester City but certainly have the conviction in the attacking sense. They had built a culture in Bergamo their identity and reputation is attacking minded football. Gianpaolo Gasparini has done well with their defense and they have enough quality in the back line to keep themselves in matches but most of all Gasparini is an attacking minded manager who continues to give his team the resources to score goals in high numbers. Last season Atalanta scored over 70 goals in Italian football which was the highest scoring team in the league. This season they have been the highest scoring team once again and have been absolutely ruthless on the counter attack. When they’re at their best and they’re coming forward with numbers there’s very little anyone can do about it. They have scored 6 goals or more in three games this season. They have the capacity to turn matches on their head even with some defensive deficiency occasionally occurring. There have been some matches in which the team had a 2-0 lead and the opposition equalizes in the match and still win the game by more than one goal. That’s how explosive and dangerous this team has been Atalanta is one of the League’s best teams and added value no one attack like Atalanta does. They take risks but they are well-intentioned risks when Atalanta are playing and they concede first there isn’t a lack of confidence that’s felt throughout the team. They have bought into the identity that Gasparini has created. The team plays with no fear and even with a comfortable lead Gasparini will bring on even more attackers it is just the style of football he plays. They are so electric and so much fun to watch. On top of that they’re getting results not only do they play beautiful and entertaining football they are able to pick up big points and are getting results on a consistent basis. The team has developed that consistency that has the potential to take them to a place that they have never been before. They attack everyone and they don’t hold back it is what has made this team so special and so entertaining. The scary thing about this as we haven’t even seen this team at full health very often. After being the League’s best team in terms of attacking football they continue to add a pieces. Luis Muriel an incredibly quick striker that can get into tight spaces arrived from Florentina. They also added Ruslan Malinovsky he arrived from the Ukraine and even though he’s been mostly as a rotation player has proven the ability to score goals. This attack is led by duvan Zapata the League’s best player and Josip Ilicic one of the best striker sin the league. They have players who buy into the attack they work together as a team. The Firepower that they certainly have upfront they have the architect of the Midfield in Papu Gomez Remo Freuler one of the best defensive midfielders in the league and on top of that Mario Pašalić Marten De Roon a player that does all the dirty work and even some of their defensive players are able to play an attacking positions. This entire team connects on so many different levels and there’s a reason they strangle their opponents with the ruthless attack they have have. They’re one of the best and most efficient attacking teams in all of Europe. Liverpool might be the only team in the world who attacks with as much aggression and has the killer mentality that they have when going forward. This little team from Bergamo has become a juggernaut they’re goal is the scudetto. Obviously that is easier said than done and they don’t quite have enough to lift that trophy quite yet. However considering how they have played this season they have been able to handle Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan Paulo Fonseca’s Roma Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio as well as a Valencia team that won the Copa del Rey last season against Leo Messi’s Barcelona. Even when the rest of season plays out they will not have enough to win the league title this season. They will get back into the Champions League almost certainly however if they were to add one or two more pieces to this team they would take out Inter Milan Lazio and Juventus for the league title they will be very much in a title race next season. With the right sort of adjustments and quality added to a team that is already loaded Atalanta winning a scudetto would be the ultimate glorification of who they really are. This team in Bergamo has become a factor in Italian football after being Irrelevant for most of their history. Winning the scudetto in the next couple Seasons if they stay together would be possibly one of the greatest stories in the history of football. I believe that they can accomplish that holding on to Duvan Zapata and the other important pieces is essential but if they manage to do it. It will take them a step closer to sporting immortality. Atalanta has overachieved every step along the way. At the beginning European football sounded crazy Champions League football sounded crazy a quarter finals in the Champions League sounded crazy. Is a scudetto really all that crazy now?