On a high from their superb league win at the weekend, Atalanta BC host fellow Serie A form side Lazio on Wednesday, as the pair vie for a place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s men welcome the buoyant Biancocelesti for the first of two meetings between the clubs in the space of four days, having just taken maximum points from league leaders AC Milan.
Unable to get their hands on the famous old trophy since 1963, Atalanta come into this year’s last eight of the Coppa Italia as one of the favourites to claim glory in May.
La Dea’s merited 3-0 defeat of Milan on Saturday evening was just the latest in a string of dominant showings from the Bergamo-based outfit, who are level on points with Juventus and just one behind third-placed Roma in the Serie A standings.
Re-established as a team to fear, Gasperini’s men have now suffered just a single defeat in 13 matches in all competitions, and they clearly made the short trip to Milan with the intent to derail their more illustrious local rivals. Second-half goals from key forwards Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata sealed the deal at San Siro and the pair will again be integral to the side’s efforts against Lazio.
The last meeting between the two teams took place at the end of September, ending 4-1 to the Bergamaschi – largely thanks to the inspired interventions of then-captain Papu Gomez.
Since the playmaker’s removal from the squad due to an irreparable fall-out with Gasperini – which many thought would leave an unfillable void – recent stats to emerge in the Italian media show that Atalanta have established an even better record without him on the pitch.
Having averaged 1.5 points per game with Gomez and 2.3 without him so far, they also have improved in terms of both goals scored and goals conceded by around a goal per game.
Such a situation indirectly highlights the Nerazzurri’s growing squad depth this year – demonstrated by a much-changed XI seeing off Cagliari with ease in the previous round – but Gasperini’s selection this time out will likely be much closer to his first-choice side.
Lazio are currently seventh in Serie A – just two points behind their hosts this week – and have finally found form after a disappointing start to their 2020-21 season.
Strikes from goalscoring stalwarts Ciro Immobile and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic saw the Biancocelesti to a 2-1 win over fellow top-four contenders Sassuolo at the weekend – an impressive come-from-behind victory.
Clearly galvanised by beating rivals Roma 3-0 in the Derby – amid a five-match run of successes which has seen the Biancocelesti gain ground on their fellow contestants for a European spot and knock Parma out in the last 16 of the cup – Simone Inzaghi’s men remain undefeated this calendar year.
Integral to the improvement of a previously inconsistent side has been a greater resilience in defence. After conceding 25 goals in their first 16 games, Lazio have now let in just four more goals in their last six outings.
Having reached the final twice in the past four years – last lifting the trophy in 2019 – Lazio have been Coppa Italia specialists in the 21st century; also emerging victorious in 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2013.
With seven wins in all, one of the competition’s most successful clubs now continue this year’s challenge away to a similarly in-form outfit – in a finely-balanced encounter set to enthrall throughout.