With both sides on very different trajectories since the turn of the year, ailing Atalanta BC and in-form Juventus go head-to-head in a crucial clash for a top-four place on Sunday.
A run of three wins and two draws in Serie A after the winter break sees Juve lead La Dea by two points in the standings, and while a Bianconeri victory would consolidate their advantage, a win for the hosts would instead help them leapfrog their Turin rivals.
After suffering another Serie A setback last weekend, Atalanta met Fiorentina in Thursday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final in need of a morale-boosting win.
However, a late collapse against the 10-man Viola saw them exit the cup – a competition in which they lost last season’s final to Juventus – and consigned the Bergamo side to a fourth successive match without victory.
Their loss at the Gewiss Stadium, where the Nerazzurri play their third of four home games in a row this Sunday, adds further to a dire record at their Lombardy headquarters, having managed just three wins from 12 attempts there in the league.
That leaves Atalanta inside the bottom half of the rankings for points taken on home soil, with Gian Piero Gasperini’s fifth-placed side most recently losing out in their clash with relegation-threatened Cagliari last Sunday, when goalkeeper Juan Musso was sent off in a frustrating 2-1 defeat.
Though they were beaten in the cup final last term, Atalanta have won their last two league meetings against Juventus without conceding a goal – which already represents their best-ever winning run against the Bianconeri in Serie A – and could now become the first side to win three consecutive top-flight matches against Juve in over a decade.
A season-ending injury for star striker Duvan Zapata has played its part in a declining strike rate during recent weeks, though, and could well undermine the Bergamaschi’s hopes of winning successive home games against the Old Lady for only the second time in their history – and the first in nearly 70 years.
Extending their recent upturn, Juventus continued their quest for silverware on Thursday evening, as they eliminated Sassuolo in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals thanks to a late own goal.
Though an unfortunate Ruan Tressoldi was ‘credited’ with the decisive goal, the cup holders – who entered Serie A’s top four after last week’s league win against Hellas Verona – owed their progress to another intervention by big-money signing Dusan Vlahovic.
The Serbian striker’s powerful run and strike was heavily deflected past Gianluca Pegolo, adding to a debut goal for the Bianconeri against Verona which further pressed his claim for the Capocannoniere crown – currently the former Fiorentina hitman is tied with Ciro Immobile on 18 league goals.
Following his arrival, Juve could be back in contention for some collective prizes too, as despite missing out in the dramatic Supercoppa loss to Inter last month, they have been in fine form and could even be outside contenders for the Scudetto – trailing leaders Inter by just seven points ahead of the weekend.
Also still involved in the Champions League, in which they soon tackle a last-16 tie with Villarreal, Max Allegri’s men are set to squeeze in a two-legged Coppa semi-final with Fiorentina in the coming weeks too – plus next Friday’s Derby della Mole versus an improved Torino.
Having now kept a clean sheet in each of their last three league outings, Juventus are also unbeaten in their last 10 Serie A matches – their best such run since the tail end of 2020. Therefore, they arrive in Bergamo as favourites to pull clear of their faltering opponents, but memories of November’s 1-0 loss in Turin will keep them on their toes.
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
Juventus Serie A form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
We say: Atalanta BC 0-2 Juventus
All signs seem to be pointing towards a Juve win this weekend, as the combination of Atalanta’s recent struggles, below-par home form and loss of their top striker makes them a weakened proposition since the sides last met.
Not only that, but the visitors now have a formidable front line of their own, which should expect to breach the hosts’ defence at least once over the course of a hard-fought 90 minutes.