With Inter and Atalanta on collision course for Saturday, we had the perfect opportunity to check in with our friends of the wrong Nerazzurri, Atalanta Passione. Nick does a superb job covering all things La Dea here and you can follow him on Twitter. He was kind enough to answer all of our Atalanta queries ahead of Saturday, from how the current campaign has fared to what to expect this weekend and more.
Q: How has Atalanta fared this season? Has its summer transfer market been a success so far?
A: Atalanta’s season has gotten off to a nice start. 4th in Serie A as well as a comfortable lead in Group D of the Europa League has Atalanta continuing to look at competitive football deep into the winter and early spring.
The wins on the transfer market have been a primary reason for Gasperini and the squad’s success. The Percassi’s didn’t rest on their laurels after hitting it big with the Rasmus Hojlund sale to Manchester United. Instead it turned that cash into Gianluca Scamacca (sorry Interisti), Charles de Ketelaere, and while he hasn’t played yet, record signing El Bilal Toure. CDK and Scamacca, while a bit uneven at times, have carried the offense when they’ve been going right. Also I cannot forget free transfer Sead Kolasinac who immediately stepped in at left center back and solidified a sturdy defense.
Q: What are La Dea’s strengths and weaknesses? Any key players for Inter to jeep an eye out for?
A: Atalanta’s strength now comes from its balance. The team is a far cry from the run and gun free flowing style of the Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic days (as much as the commentators will try to pigeonhole this current squad to the mold it set three years ago). Now strength comes from the balance across the pitch. Ederson has admirably stepped in to be a rock along side Marten de Roon in the middle, and Matteo Ruggeri has been the surprise of the season barely missing a minute at left back for the squad. While the run and gun of old Atalanta is not present, the team still has plenty of offensive weapons to throw at defenses - and if everything clicks it could be an extremely dangerous offensive to plan against.
With that being said, Atalanta is still vulnerable against heavy presses and often go extended periods struggling to get out of its own half. Gasperini still lacks a safety valve counter attack to beat an unrelenting press, making it easier for teams attempting to claw back into a match.
Q: What does a succesful season look like in Bergamo?
3. Success would be extended runs in all three competitions. The board didn’t dish out record transfer money to just fight for top of half of the table. While the Scudetto may be wishful thinking, there’s no doubt that finishing Top 4 is a goal (albeit a stretch goal) and maneuvering European waters in the Europa League. Alongside Liverpool, Roma, Leverkusen, and a few other clubs, La Dea is definitely among the favorites - and it’s not a stretch for the boys to better their quarterfinal finish from two years ago in which they were defeated by RB Leipzig.
Personally I’d be happy with finishing in Europa League spots again, as well as at least reaching the quarterfinals of this year’s Europa League. Any distance in the Coppa Italia would be gravy.
Q: And lastly, what’s your prediction for Saturday?
A: This match is the unstoppable force versus the immovable object. Atalanta has yet to concede at home this year, yet this will be Atalanta’s first true test (Juventus notwithstanding) against a complete offense. The defense has to be mistake free, and it will likely take a bit of magic from Scamacca or Ademola Lookman for Atalanta to come away with three points. European matches upcoming midweek may have both coaches game planning with one eye on the horizon, which to me screams draw. A 1-1 doesn’t surprise me and Atalanta will have to wait another day before securing its first victory against Inter since 2018.