Despite falling short in the quest for a Champions League return, the Bergamaschi can guarantee Europa League qualification by beating regional rivals who have defied expectation to seek a top-half finish.
After suffering their second 3-2 defeat to Inter Milan this season, Atalanta can no longer break into Serie A’s top four, and last week’s loss at San Siro leaves them vulnerable to finishing as low as seventh in the final standings.
Should La Dea lose at home to Monza, victories for Juventus and Roma would see such a slip occur; slightly spoiling a season which promised much at certain stages – Gian Piero Gasperini’s men sat second behind Napoli a few months ago.
More recently, Atalanta have lost three of their last four matches – the same number of defeats as in the previous 10 – so a spot in either the Europa League or Europa Conference League will have to suffice.
The Nerazzurri have at least started to improve a sub-par home record of late, with four wins resulting from their last six outings at the Gewiss Stadium – though they have conceded at least once on each occasion.
This term, a change in style has seen Gasperini’s side score 61 goals in the league – their lowest tally for five years – but ship only 46 at the other end, which is also their fewest since 2017-18.
As their coach’s cryptic media messages have left doubts around whether his seven-year reign will continue, or if he will depart Bergamo for a new challenge, uncertainty reigns. If this is to be the end, then ‘Gasp’ will want to sign off in style with victory this weekend.
Having long been the junior partner in the teams’ relationship, Monza have lost six of their last seven meetings with Atalanta, with the most pertinent being September’s reverse fixture, when they suffered a 2-0 home defeat to their fellow Lombardy club.
Much has changed since then, as the Biancorossi have been a team transformed under rookie coach Raffaele Palladino, who led his side to victory over Juventus in his first game in charge and then never looked back.
After subsequent wins over Inter, Napoli and Juventus again, Monza are in the mix for a top-10 finish at the end of their Serie A debut season, following promotion through the playoffs this time last year.
Under the watch of Palladino, the upwardly mobile outfit have accrued 52 points already, and should they beat Atalanta they would post the second-best tally of any promoted side throughout the three-points-for-a-win era; Juve returned to the top flight with a total of 72 points in 2007-08.
Ending a seven-game unbeaten run – started by beating Inter 1-0 at San Siro – Monza endured a rare setback last week, when Giulio Donati was dismissed late on against Lecce, who then produced a stoppage-time strike to take all three points back down to Salento; securing their survival in the process.
However, Palladino’s men have remained undefeated in their last six away matches ahead of Sunday’s season finale, and that represents the best such run of any promoted team for some 23 years.
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Monza Serie A form:
We say: Atalanta BC 1-1 Monza
Given Atalanta are rarely convincing on home soil and Monza have proved themselves solid when hitting the road, a share of the spoils is on the cards. The visitors recruited well last summer and have forged a fearless mentality; in many ways, following in the footsteps of their hosts – Serie A’s serial overachievers.