How Atalanta took UEFA Champions League by Storm

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The 2019-2020 season has been the best season yet for Italian Serie A side Atalanta. In their 112 years of existence, they have never had it this good domestically and especially in Europe.

Atalanta has spent over 58 seasons in the Italian Serie A out of their 112 years of existence. Though their stay at the apex league in Italy has not been consistent, they have only managed to win one major domestic title, Coppa Italia in 1962-1963 season.

However, the Serie A club started enjoying a consistent mode of progress when Gian Piero Gasperini became the manager of the club in 2016. Their consistency in the league from that point became the root of the rave reviews the club has been enjoying all season long.

The man-management skills and the discipline Gian Piero Gasperini was able to instill on the players earned them the best finish in the club’s history as they finished third in the Italian Serie A table at the end of the 2018-2019 season. This gave them the opportunity to play in the 2019-2020 UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.

Atalanta resumed the just concluded 2019-2020 Serie A season the way they ended the previous one. They were the highest goalscoring side of the league as they ended the league with 98 goals, 22 goals more than Juventus, the eventual winners of the league.

As good as the team is, three of Atalanta’s players scored above 17 goals in the Italian Serie A – Luis Muriel (18 goals), Duván Zapata (18 goals), and Josip Iličić (21 goals). These goals were enough to help the club finish third on the league table, 5 points away from Juventus.

How Atalanta took UEFA Champions League by Storm

Atalanta players celebrating their triumph over Valencia
Atalanta players celebrating their triumph over Valencia

Though Atalanta had it very rough in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League as they lost their first match in the group 4-0 to Dinamo Zagreb, lost their second 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk and then their third 5-1 to Manchester City. They however made up for the lost points in the return legs and they were able to survive the group.

Many critics of Atalanta ended up being wowed by their blistering performance on the pitch but still insisted that the Serie A club has already bitten more than it could chew. Hence, the club was expected to end their Champions League journey at the last-16.

To the dismay of their critics, Atalanta scaled through the round of 16 after beating Spanish club Valencia 4-1 in the home fixture and 4-3 in the away fixture to book a date with Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-final which would take place in Lisbon on August 12, 2020.

Atalanta’s UCL group stage results

Sept. 18: Dinamo Zagreb 4, Atalanta 0
Oct. 1: Shakhtar Donetsk 2, Atalanta 1
Oct. 22: Manchester City 5, Atalanta 1
Nov. 6: Atalanta 1, Manchester City 1
Nov. 26: Atalanta 2, Dinamo Zagreb 2
Dec. 11: Atalanta 3, Shakhtar Donetsk 0

Atalanta’s Knockout stage results

Round of 16
Feb. 19: Atalanta 4, Valencia 1
March 10: Atalanta 4, Valencia 3

Quarterfinals
Aug. 12: Atalanta vs. PSG, 3 p.m. ET

Atalanta vs. PSG Preview

Atalanta best player Josip Iličić
Atalanta best player Josip Iličić

Besides Manchester City and probably Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta will meet, Paris Saint Germain, their biggest opponent in this season’s Champions League quarter-final in Lisbon, Portugal.

The last time PSG lost a match in the French Ligue 1 was on November 1, 2019, against Dijon. The match ended 2-1. Until they were declared winners of the 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season, they only lost three matches in the French league. While the last time the French champions lost a Champions League match was on February 18, 2020. They lost 2-1 when they visited Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 of the Champions League. They overturned the victory by beating the Bundesliga side 2-0 on Match 11, 2020.

As for Atalanta, the last time they lost a match was on Saturday, 1 August 2020, when they faced Inter Milan on the last day of the Serie A 2019-2020 season. Besides that, they have been enjoying a steady form since the Serie A returned from the coronavirus break.

The Big issue for Atalanta and PSG

Atalanta might be without their best player Josip Iličić on August 12 when they face PSG if he is not back from his indefinite absence before the game. Since the 31-year-old Slovenia forward reportedly is away from the team due to personal issues.

However, the team is still working on him to get him ready for the clash as he has been their top scorer in the Champions League so far with 5 goals.

On the other hand, PSG will also be without their best player and top scorer in the Champions League, Kylian Mbappe when they meet on August 12. The youngster who has scored 5 goals in the Champions League this season got injured in July when PSG played against Saint-Etienne in the French Cup final. He has been ruled out for a month which might be enough to see him miss the clash.