Many would have noticed their name in this seasons’ Champions League group draw, but most would not know who they are. Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, commonly referred to as Atalanta is a tidy club neatly hidden away in the heart of Bergamo, Lombardy, Northern Italy. The club has three nicknames: Nerazzuri which relate to their colours of black and blue; Orobici which is a reference to their Ligurian or Gallic descent, and finally La Dea ‘The Goddess’.
For years Atalanta were a yo-yo club with their existence spreading across 58 seasons in Serie A, 28 in Serie B and a solemn season in Serie C with their only domestic success coming in 1963 when they were crowned Coppa Italia champions. In Europe, their history until recently is also bleak, having only reached the Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final in 1988 and the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Cup in 1991.
It is their more recent form which is catching the eyes of the rest of Europe with an exciting free-scoring side under the tutelage of Gian Piero Gasperini.
Gasperini is a manager many have not heard of outside the boot-shaped country. Tactically, he is known for his hyper offensive 3-4-3 formation and encourages his players to take risks in the offensive third. His team is all about possession and making the ball do all the work, wearing down opposition who find themselves quickly chasing games with the high amount of chances and goals his teams score.
The Bergamo club is reaping the reward of keeping the faith in Gasperini, who in his early days at the club endured a poor run of form and was a sure-fire favourite for the sack. Loyalty has a funny way, and that loyalty has certainly been rewarded. The club qualified for the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League, reaching the competition for the first time in their history, after finishing 3rd in the 2018–19 Serie A season. This represented the highest finish in the league in the club’s history. However, due to their home ground being ineligible for the competition, they have found themselves playing 59km away from home, hosting their European nights at the San Siro, Milano.
Their highlight this year in the Champions League being an 8-4 Agg demolition of Valencia, who themselves are no slouch when it comes to elite European competition. Five goals from star man Josip Ilicic, two by Hateboer and a single from Frueler securing their place in the Quarter-Finals. Atalanta now look forward to the remainder of this year’s Champions League where they’ll face a one legged Quarter-Final tie in Lisbon and possibly beyond.
In Serie A this season it is looking like a consolidation of that Champions League place for next season. As of June 17th, they are the leagues’ top scorers, surpassing Juventus by twenty goals with a total of 70. Their main players are goalscorers Josip Ilicic, Duvan Zapata, and former Sevilla frontman Luis Muriel. They are certainly a team in contention for any new fan of Serie A to watch and if you had to pick a team to support then you would be hard pushed to find a more exciting club, with what appears to be a very bright future.
I honestly believe they will end the season in the fourth Champions League place and are only three or four quality signings away from potentially challenging, if not toppling, Juventus from the top spot in the league, and becoming a real contender for the Scudetto.
From me its Arrivederci…