Opposition guide to Atalanta

Monday 18 October 2021 12:00

Atalanta arrive at Old Trafford hoping for another famous victory in one of English football's great arenas. Last year, La Dea beat Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool by two goals at Anfield and, as current Champions League Group F leaders, Gian Piero Gasperini's side will be in confident mood.

With three consecutive third-placed Serie A finishes, Atalanta are now firmly established in the upper echelons of the Italian league. Promoted as winners of Serie B in 2011, it has been quite the rise for the Bergamo-based team.

What can you expect from Gasperini's side on Wednesday night? Here's all you need to know...

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Forget your predispositions towards Italian teams; Atalanta are a free-flowing, aggressive side who press hard, attack fast and break defensive lines down. They have been Serie A's top goalscorers for three consecutive years. It's entertaining, and when it comes off, very difficult to stop, as Liverpool found in 2020. Conversely, if you can survive the press and break through it, you can have serious joy up against Atalanta, as Manchester City found in a 5-1 victory the previous year.


Gasperini sets his team up in a 3-4-3 formation with two attacking wing-backs who provide width, two split strikers who lead the press and help in build-up play. Matteo Pessina normally centres the attacking line-up, with two strikers playing off him ahead, but he's been ruled out for a couple of months with a thigh strain. In his place, you can expect Mario Pasalic to start, the Croatian former-Chelsea midfielder who enjoyed loan moves with Elche, Monaco, Milan, Spartak Moscow and then Atalanta, before signing permanently.

The two strikers will likely be Luis Muriel and his Colombian team-mate Duvan Zapata, who has recently returned from injury and scored twice in Sunday's 4-1 win against Empoli.

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Atalanta operate a fluid, zonal-marking plan, just as they operate a fluid attacking system. Jose Luis Palomino is the key cog in the three-man defence. The 31-year-old can play in the centre or left of defence, where Atalanta could be forced to make a couple of changes due to the injury of Albanian defender Berat Djimsiti, who fractured a forearm during the international break.

Rafael Toloi, who pulled a muscle a few weeks ago, could be available and United fans may recognise the third defender, Merih Demiral from the summer's European Championship. Demiral played for Turkey and joined Atalanta on loan from Juventus soon after the tournament's conclusion.

Luis Muriel (L) and Duvan Zapata (R) are expected to lead the line for Atalanta.


Nickname: La Dea (The Goddess)
Founded: 17 October 1907
Ground: Stadio di Bergamo (21,747)
All-time appearance maker: Gianpaolo Bellini (1998-2016), 435 apps
All-time top scorer: Cristiano Doni (1998-2003, 2006-11), 112 goals
Last season: 3rd place, Serie A
Last trophy: Serie B winners 2010/11
Last year in the Champions League: Round of 16 (4-1 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid)


In the Champions League, Atalanta ground out a 1-0 victory against Young Boys in gameweek two, taking them top of the group after a 2-2 opening day draw with Villarreal.

La Dea returned from the international break with a 4-1 win against Empoli, goals coming from Josip Illcic (2), a Mattia Viti own goal and Duvan Zapata. Before the pause, they had played the two Milan sides on consecutive weekends, drawing 2-2 with Inter before a 3-2 defeat to AC Milan.