Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Empoli

Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Empoli

Atalanta BC host Empoli on Friday evening in a Serie A meeting between two managers at opposite ends of the experience spectrum.

Gian Piero Gasperini, Serie A’s oldest head coach at 65, will pit his wily wits against Empoli’s embryonic 40-year-old Paolo Zanetti, the second-youngest manager in Italy’s top flight.

All of Gasperini’s experience was only enough to hold off Napoli’s fearsome attack for an hour last weekend, which is more than most in Serie A have been able to do, before giving in to the untameable Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as Italy’s runaway league leaders ultimately eased to a 2-0 win.

Atalanta have lost five of their last seven matches and have gone four-and-a-half hours without a goal; the club’s longest scoring drought in Serie A for five years – La Dea last endured four consecutive games without finding the net in 2014.

The Bergamo outfit started the season with a 10-match unbeaten run, sitting as high as second in mid-October before stumbling into the World Cup break with four defeats in five games (the only bright spot being a win against Empoli incidentally).

After a trio of top-three finishes between 2018 and 2021, Atalanta slipped to eighth last term and remain locked in the transition process from that golden, goal-laden squad to a younger side which currently sits in sixth, six points behind fourth-placed Milan in the last Champions League spot.

Gasperini spent much of the previous week highlighting the disparity in bank balances between Atalanta and their fellow rivals for European football, but Empoli are operating on a significantly smaller budget than La Dea.

Empoli are also in an even worse gulley of form than Atalanta, failing to earn a victory in any of their previous seven matches – the second-longest current winless run in Serie A.

Before this desperate sequence, Zanetti had steered Empoli into the top half of the table as recently as January midway through his debut season at the club, but the Tuscan side have since slipped to 14th, nine points above the relegation zone.

Zanetti had a very brief loan spell at Atalanta during his playing career, making his debut for La Dea in January 2010 against a Genoa side managed by none other than Gasperini – Zanetti was hooked before the hour mark in a 2-0 defeat and only made one more appearance for the club.

Atalanta’s recent struggles in front of goal are new, but Empoli have repeatedly found the formula to blunt their hosts when travelling to Bergamo; Atalanta have failed to score in three of their last four home games against Empoli.

Atalanta BC Serie A form:

Empoli Serie A form:

We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 Empoli
Both teams are in rotten runs of form but Atalanta, buoyed by their home crowd, a much stronger squad and their veteran coach, should have enough to end their winless and goalless streak against Empoli this Friday.

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