Having experienced differing European fortunes in midweek, Atalanta BC host local rivals AC Milan at the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday.
The pair meet in a second successive Lombardy derby in Serie A, following La Dea’s breathless draw with champions Inter last weekend, while Milan come into the game sitting second in the league after five wins from six so far.
In sharp contrast to their magnificent domestic form in the early throes of the 2021-22 season, Milan followed up a dramatic 3-2 loss to Liverpool in the opening match of their Champions League campaign with another defeat on Tuesday – this time at the hands of Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.
While that reverse still leaves the Rossoneri in search of their first victory in Europe’s elite competition since beating Celtic back in 2013, they return to Serie A duty with a fine series of results behind them; substantiating their claims as genuine Scudetto contenders this term.
In fact, Milan have already tallied 16 points, which means if they should now win in Bergamo, they will equal their best beginning to a top-flight season since the turn of the century – the 19 points accrued during their first seven matches of 2003-04.
Their unbeaten start to the league will perhaps come under its greatest threat so far – though Stefano Pioli’s men were previously held to a draw by a transitional Juventus side – as they make the short trip from the second city to the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday.
Six of their last 12 league clashes with the Bergamaschi have ended in a draw, demonstrating the closing gap between the two clubs in recent years, but Milan came out on top in their most recent encounter in May.
They have also been humbled by 3-0 and 5-0 scorelines by this weekend’s opponents during the past two years, though, so are acutely aware of the damage that can be caused by an Atalanta in full flow.
Events over the past fortnight suggest Atalanta are starting to gear up towards their awesome best ahead of Milan’s visit, as they are now unbeaten in five games across all competitions and have won three of their last four.
La Dea’s latest triumph came at the expense of Champions League Group F rivals Young Boys on Wednesday night, as they edged out the Swiss champions by virtue of Matteo Pessina’s 68th-minute strike – helping them onto four European points so far.
That vital first win of their third consecutive campaign in the competition came hot on the heels of an action-packed draw at San Siro last Saturday, as they shared the spoils with defending champions Inter and should perhaps have sealed all three points.
An end-to-end encounter – in which both the hosts’ Lautaro Martinez and Atalanta sharpshooter Ruslan Malinovskyi thundered home stunning goals – ultimately finished 2-2, after a late Roberto Piccoli ‘winner’ for the Bergamaschi was ruled out by the VAR.
That result leaves Gian Piero Gasperini and company sitting seventh in Serie A ahead of the weekend’s action – just one point shy of the top four, but five behind Milan and some seven short of flawless league leaders Napoli.
Not only will he want to close those gaps, but since ‘Gasp’ joined Atalanta in the 2016-17 season he has managed to oversee just one win against the Rossoneri from his five home league matches against them, so will surely want to put that record right starting on Sunday.
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
AC Milan Serie A form:
AC Milan form (all competitions):
We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 AC Milan
Having stuttered in Europe and been far from convincing in beating Spezia last weekend, Milan’s unbeaten start could come to an end in Bergamo.
Atalanta have proved their mettle among the top clubs yet again, with an impressive display against the Rossoneri’s rivals Inter indicating they are stirring into life – and despite injuries on the flanks, up front they boast several potent options.