After finishing fourth last season and qualifying for European competition for the first time in 26 years, it seems like Atalanta are putting all their eggs in the Europa League basket this term. With competition for the Serie A title so fierce this season, Coach Gian Piero Gasperini and the club’s hierarchy seem to have realised that their best shot at silverware is via UEFA’s second-tier competition.
The danger with this approach, of course, is that the team from Bergamo could risk putting themselves in trouble in the league. But, so far, they have managed their schedule well, keeping themselves well clear of the relegation zone, while excelling in Europe.
This has been achieved by using their full quota of players, including many who have graduated from their highly-rated academy, and by fielding their strongest XI in their Europa League ties, an approach that saw them qualify for the knockout stages with a game to spare after destroying Premier League side Everton 5-1 away from home. Their performance in Europe is even more impressive when you consider that they had to play all their home games 200km away in Sassuolo.
Based on their performances so far, Atalanta look much better than their current price of 33/1 to win the competition, especially when considering that the second-ranked team in their group, Lyon, are as short as 16/1. And with plenty of free bets and bonuses available on sites such as sportsbettingtips.co.uk, there might be a case to be made for backing the Italian long shots to go all the way.
La Dea may have six Serie B titles to their name but their only major trophy came via a Coppa Italia win way back in 1963. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they are taking this competition so seriously. A first trophy win in more than 50 years combined with Champions League qualification would be a remarkable achievement for a club that has long been seen as little more than a springboard for talented young players.
Andrea Masiello, Jose Luis Palomino, and Hans Hateboer have been ever-present in the defence during their European exploits, while Bryan Crsitante, Remo Freuler, and Andrea Petagna have also started every game. And, of those six, three are aged 23 or under. Other youngsters who have shone in this tournament include 23-year-old defender Mattia Caldara, 21-year-old right-back Timoty Castagne, and 24-year-old left winger Leonardo Spinazzola, all of which suggest that the future is bright for the Bergamo side and, indeed, Italy, with five of those mentioned eligible for the national team.
The previous could be vital in the coming years, especially in the light of the Azzurri’s disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. The club that produced the likes of Scirea, Donadoni, Gabbiadini, Montolivo, Pazzini, Inzaghi, and Vieri could once again be nurturing the future stars of Italian football. If those players can get a taste of success this season, their development could be boosted even further.