Just days after their European heartbreak, Atalanta BC visit fellow entertainers Hellas Verona, as the free-scoring pair clash at Stadio Bentegodi on Sunday.
While the hosts will be buoyed by their remarkable comeback in last week’s Veneto derby, their Lombardy counterparts must bounce back from crashing out of the Champions League if they are to continue a five-match winning run in Serie A.
Having lost the decisive final match of their Group F campaign on Thursday – after it was postponed by a day due to heavy snow in Bergamo – not only did Atalanta’s Champions League involvement come to an early end, but they also saw a 10-game unbeaten run finally curtailed.
No strangers to conceding goals, due to their wide open style and commitment to getting men forward, the Nerazzurri were ultimately unable to recover from going three down to Villarreal shortly after half time, and despite a late fightback were beaten 3-2 by their direct rivals for a top-two spot.
As a result, Atalanta will enter next week’s Europa League playoff draw and will now turn their thoughts to maintaining a superb streak of form in Serie A of late.
La Dea’s entertaining 3-2 win at Napoli last weekend secured not only their place among the league’s top four, but also as dark horses for a Scudetto challenge as the season heads towards its halfway point.
Following on from their first away win against Juventus for more than 30 years and a 4-0 crushing of Venezia just days before, Atalanta have returned to their free-flowing best, and an impressive tally of 27 goals from their last 11 outings bodes well for the challenges ahead.
Before their visit to Verona, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are also one of two teams in the top five European Leagues to have won the most away matches this season – alongside La Liga leaders Real Madrid – with a tally of seven from eight outings on the road. Therefore, they still start as favourites at the Bentegodi, despite their hosts’ recent turnaround.
While Atalanta have hardly stopped scoring of late, Verona’s Giovanni Simeone has been a man reborn in the penalty area during the past few weeks, playing an integral role in his side’s surge up the standings.
The Argentinian striker’s latest intervention came at the climax of a remarkable 4-3 win against local rivals Venezia last weekend, as he rattled in his 10th and 11th goals of the campaign to secure all three points for the Scaligieri, after they had been three goals down before the break.
That improbable first away win also helped Igor Tudor’s side overcome the frustration felt at being held to a goalless draw by struggling Cagliari earlier in the week, though they at least extended their unbeaten home run to seven straight games – their best such streak in nearly 20 years.
Having been plagued by inconsistency under both Tudor and his immediate predecessors, Eusebio Di Francesco and Ivan Juric, Verona will now aim to win two league matches in a row for the first time in over a year, and home advantage should certainly help.
As the Gialloblu have lost four of their last six Serie A meetings with Atalanta, though, both precedent and their visitors’ vibrant attacking force will be up against them on Sunday.
Hellas Verona Serie A form:
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
We say: Hellas Verona 2-2 Atalanta BC
There will surely be goals for either side on Sunday afternoon, as both coaches are committed to taking the initiative and there are set to be several in-form stars on show.
Verona’s extra confidence on home soil can help them secure a point against their dangerous opponents, who will perhaps be slow to start after their midweek exertions.