Having just upset Tuscan rivals Fiorentina in another Monday night fixture, the Azzurri are now seeking the scalp of La Dea.
Still awaiting their first away goal or point of the season, Empoli travelled to Fiorentina’s Stadio Franchi for the Derby dell’Arno last week with the odds stacked against them – particularly given their hosts’ fine form this term.
Belief grew, though, when veteran striker Francesco Caputo opened the scoring with a 21st-minute finish, and with the clock ticking down to full time, Emmanuel Gyasi sealed the deal with the Azzurri’s second goal – gleaned from just three shots on target.
As a result, coach Aurelio Andreazzoli – who is set to turn 70 next month – has seen Empoli pick up seven points from five matches since his return to the club for a fourth spell in charge.
After nine rounds, that was just enough to take the Tuscan club out of the drop zone, and such a success offers hope that their woes in the opposition area could be coming to an end.
Upon their return to Stadio Castellani on Monday, Empoli have failed to score in four of their five home fixtures this season, and a total of only one league goal on home turf is fewer than any other team across Europe’s top five leagues.
They have also won just one of their last seven meetings with Atalanta at the Castellani, losing on five occasions, so producing back-to-back wins will require another big upset.
Not only have Atalanta won five of their eight Serie A matches against Empoli since Gian Piero Gasperini took the reins back in 2016, they have conceded a miserly average of 0.68 goals per game against the Azzurri during that time.
However, they will depart Bergamo having lost three away fixtures on the road already – to Frosinone, Fiorentina and Lazio – so cannot afford too many more slip-ups if they are to secure a return to Italy’s top four after a couple of years away.
Last time out, the Nerazzurri were held to a 2-2 Europa League draw by Sturm Graz, when Luis Muriel’s first-half double proved insufficient to see off their 10-man hosts in Austria, but they are still in good shape to progress from Group D and make the knockout phase, sitting top of the table on seven points.
Back at home, Atalanta had just moved up to sixth place in Serie A with a 2-0 defeat of promoted Genoa that took them within a point of the top four and further improved an impressive defensive record in domestic competition.
For the first time in club history, La Dea have kept a clean sheet in six of their first nine top-flight fixtures, and no team has accrued more shut-outs throughout Europe’s top five leagues.
Having kept their opponents goalless for a fifth successive home game last week – four in the league represents their best such streak since 2017 – Atalanta may now expect to do so in Empoli, given their hosts’ limitations up front.
Empoli Serie A form:
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
We say: Empoli 1-2 Atalanta BC
With just one loss in their last eight outings, Atalanta are beginning to build the consistency that has been lacking over the past couple of years, and the task of taking three points home from Tuscany is well within their grasp. An improved back line allied to more attacking options means that La Dea should have too much firepower for Empoli to handle.