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Atalanta vs Inter Milan: Scouting the Enemy

Las Vegas Atalanta stops by to give us the rundown on La Dea’s season so far and what to expect from Gasperini and Co Sunday

FC Internazionale v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Inter vs Atalanta never fails to disappoint, so it was only fitting that we prepared for the battle of the Nerazzurris with a La Dea expert. Las Vegas Atalanta was kind enough to offer us his comprehensive expertise on Atalanta, going over everything from the main takeaways of the season so far, expectations going forward, and a prediction for Sunday’s marquee affair. You can follow Las Vegas Atalanta on Twitter here and be sure to check out the awesome (and quite possibly the only English language) Atalanta podcast he co-hosts, AtalantaPOD.

Atalanta BC v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Q: Atalanta doesn’t quite seem to be the same goal-scoring machine it used to be, but the results keep pouring in for La Dea. Do you think that’s a sign of a shift of philosophy for Gasperini’s men or a momentary blip?

A: Every year, it seems there are little tweaks that Gasp makes to the system to evolve with the squad he has and improve the play. The changes this year, that being said, have really more to do with surviving the injury crisis, and dealing with the hands he’s been dealt. With injuries to key attacking players like Muriel, Zapata, and Pessina, it’s no small mystery that goal scoring has been down. But the real key has been the absences of Gosens and Hateboer. While Zappacosta, Maehle, and lately Pezzella, have filled in well, it’s difficult to replace Gosens’ 11 goals from wingback, and simply, the attack is very one-dimensional without the width that the two provide. So the answer? Hopefully it’s just a blip, and you’ll see some more scoring from La Dea in the second half of the season.

Atalanta BC v Venezia FC - Italian Cup Photo by Francesco Scaccianoce/LiveMedia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Q: What would a successful second half of the 2021/22 campaign look like from an Atalanta perspective? Is this going to be the year Atalanta gets its hands on a piece of silverware?

A: Ultimately, success would be any improvement from the year before. So, this means finishing second, with more than 78 points in Serie A. This means getting to the later rounds of the Europa League, since they were bounced from the Champions League. And finally, this means no longer being the bridesmaid in the Coppa Italia. So, yes, finally a trophy. This is clearly a lot to ask, but when your goal is improvement, and you’ve been very successful already, this is what you get.

Udinese Calcio v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Q: What should Inter be most wary about coming from Atalanta? What/who has been La Dea’s strengths so far?

A: With Duvan Zapata potentially out with injury, Luis Muriel will be the main attacker. He has come off two really good games (2 goals against Udinese in Serie A and one in the Coppa Italia against Venezia). This might actually be a benefit for La Dea, as they have seemingly been too dependent on Duvan as a focal point this season. With Inter’s strong back three, the mobility and guile of Muriel may be more of a challenge than the strength of Duvan. This coupled with the good form of Joakim Maehle, means that Denzel Dumfries and Milan Skriniar could have their hands full on the Inter’s right side.

Another thing will be Atalanta’s famous high press. Inter is certainly a team with the talent to break it, but so many chances for La Dea are created by turnovers deep in the opponent’s half. Inter will need to be careful when transitioning if they are not to concede chances.

Lastly, it will be the threat of Malinovskyi, Koopmeiners, and Muriel from outside the box. Whatever Handanovic’s form is, he usually shows up against Atalanta, but there’s no doubt that the Bergamaschi will test him from distance.

Lautaro Martinez (2nd from L) of FC Internazionale... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Q: On the flip side, who worries you most on Inter? Are there any weaknesses Inzaghi could look to exploit?

A: The entire starting XI worries me. The team is full of players who love to score against Atalanta. Lautaro, Dzeko, and Hakan always show up against us. The major weakness is clear, so go long, use pace. Our centrebacks push up so high, and man-mark, so there will be space for the likes of Lautaro, Dumfries, and Perisic in transition. Plus the midfield is so good that they should be able to break the press more often than not.

FC Internazionale v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Q: And lastly, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s affair?

A: Based on recent form, it’s hard to bet against Inter. Also, we have been pretty average at home despite being spectacular away. Then there’s the unknown of COVID that can throw a wrench in it as well. But if we do away with those variables, I believe Inter just shades this one 2-1. Goals by Hakan and Bastoni will cancel out an early strike from Malinovsky. But it will be a helluva match to watch.