Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Napoli 

After finally suffering their first defeat of the season, Napoli seek an immediate response in a top-of-the-table clash with Atalanta BC on Saturday.

Separated by five points at the summit of the Serie A standings – with the visitors holding the upper hand – both teams have surpassed the traditional giants of Calcio in the opening third of the season

Both losing their 100% record in this season’s Champions League and being beaten for the first time since April, Napoli finally saw their spectacular streak stopped by Liverpool on Tuesday night.

Though virtually assured of progress from Group A in top spot, Luciano Spalletti named a strong starting XI at Anfield, but then watched them succumb to a couple of late goals from their out-of-form hosts.

Nonetheless, Napoli are not only a name to be feared when the draw for the last 16 takes place next week, they remain undefeated domestically, following their latest success at the unbreachable Stadio Maradona – a 4-0 slaying of Sassuolo.

Last Saturday, the Partenopei were inspired by Victor Osimhen’s first Serie A hat-trick, as yet another dominant display brought both victory and a five-point lead in the standings.

With European football confirmed for after the World Cup break, Spalletti’s side can concentrate on their pursuit of a first Scudetto for over 30 years, as they host Empoli and Udinese in their final two fixtures before Qatar 2022 intervenes, after first visiting Bergamo this weekend.

Also seeking his first Italian title of a long and relatively successful career, Spalletti can surpass his best streak as Napoli coach if they turn over Atalanta, as he aims for nine wins on the spin in Serie A.

Though their hosts have recently held the edge in this match-up, the Azzurri won 3-1 on their last visit to the Gewiss Stadium, back in April, and now hope to emulate that result on Saturday evening.

One of several setbacks on home soil last term, Atalanta’s defeat to Napoli came at a time when it seemed Gian Piero Gasperini may finally have lost his golden touch, as La Dea began to ail after several years of overachievement.

However, one transfer window later – having also made the most of free midweeks, to focus on preparation rather than continental competition – and ‘Gasp’ is well and truly back in business.

While the Bergamaschi saw their own impressive unbeaten ended late last month – suffering a 2-0 loss to Lazio in their most recent outing on home soil – they still sit above both Milan clubs, Juventus and their Roman rivals in the race for a top-four place.

Following the disappointment of that first defeat, Atalanta bounced back straight away last Sunday, as they beat Empoli 2-0 at Stadio Carlo Castellani, thanks to goals from Hans Hateboer and in-form forward Ademola Lookman, who has adapted seamlessly to Serie A since arriving in the summer.

Now faced with a visit from the league leaders – who have scored some 30 league goals so far – before concluding the season’s first phase by visiting Lecce on Wednesday and tackling Lombardy rivals Inter next weekend, their final trio of fixtures before the World Cup are certainly not straightforward.

Nonetheless, a defensive record bettered only by Juventus should stand them in good stead for such a stiff challenge.

Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Napoli Serie A form:
Napoli form (all competitions):

We say: Atalanta BC 1-2 Napoli
Atalanta have found the net in each of their last eight league games against Napoli – and Bologna, Ajax, and now Liverpool have each scored twice against the Serie A leaders over the past few weeks.

However, the Azzurri’s formidable firepower at the other end means they can breach their hosts’ mean defence more than once and secure a ninth straight league win.

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