With their hopes of reaching Europe now dangling by a thread, Atalanta BC aim to recover from returning only one win in eight games, as they visit Spezia on Sunday.
La Dea will arrive at Stadio Alberto Picco three points adrift of both Roman clubs in the Serie A standings following Monday’s 1-1 draw with Salernitana, while despite a late implosion last week, their hosts have almost achieved their objective: survival.
Sitting eighth in the table, after an awful run ended dreams of a fourth straight Champions League qualification, Atalanta are locked together on points with Fiorentina ahead of Serie A’s final three rounds, so may even miss out on Europa Conference League football if they cannot rapidly reverse their fortunes.
Only thanks to a late Mario Pasalic equaliser were Gian Piero Gasperini’s side able to salvage even a point from their first outing of May, at home to lowly Salernitana, after four defeats and a Europa League quarter-final exit had made April a month to forget.
Now without a win in six successive matches at their Bergamo headquarters, Atalanta have the league’s largest negative difference between points gained on home soil compared with on the road (16), and their travails at the Gewiss Stadium have seen them stall in 2022.
The Bergamaschi have picked up a mere 18 points in the second half of the season so far – in contrast with their tally of 38 from the first – and they have only beaten Serie B-bound Venezia since March.
Nonetheless, only leaders Milan and third-placed Napoli have picked up more points than Atalanta from away matches this term, and they will arrive in Liguria without bearing the expectancy of their frustrated fans.
Gasperini has been in charge since 2016, with his team’s trajectory apparently headed ever upwards, but amid murmurings of disquiet in the Atalanta boardroom, he will be desperate for three points this weekend – particularly with a trip to Milan next on the agenda.
Spezia’s second season in Serie A, meanwhile, has panned out in the opposite manner to that of Sunday’s opponents, as they have already accrued 17 points from the second half of the 2021-22 campaign – already one more than in the entire first half, with three games left to play.
That improvement – which sees Thiago Motta’s men relatively safe in 16th; seven points above the drop zone – mainly took place in the early weeks of this year, and since February, only rock-bottom Venezia have been beaten more times than Spezia in Serie A.
A spectacular seven-goal thriller last time out saw the Aquilotti squander a lead on three occasions to lose out in the final minute of the 90, when Francesco Acerbi turned home an improvised winner for Lazio last weekend.
The Ligurians have now conceded the most goals (29) in the last 30 minutes in Serie A matches this season – nearly half of their total – and have also done so in seven of their last 11 league games.
Indeed, eight losses from 12 – including three defeats in the last three – leaves the Ligurian outfit just short of securing survival, and they have also tended to struggle against the league’s top sides at the Picco this season.
Having picked up only three points in home matches against teams in the top half of the table, Spezia also have lost two of three meetings with Atalanta since their first-ever promotion to the top flight two years ago – including a 5-2 thumping in November’s reverse fixture.
Spezia Serie A form:
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
We say: Spezia 1-2 Atalanta BC
Both teams are capable of scoring from a variety of sources – Atalanta have scored courtesy of the most different players (19) in Serie A this season and Spezia sit fifth in that ranking (15) – so this encounter should not be short of goals.
Even though La Dea’s morale is at a low ebb, they are generally more at ease on away soil, while their hosts may relax a little too much with safety almost assured.