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PREVIEW | The Match of the Week: Atalanta-Napoli

Atalanta will look to continue their remarkable goal-scoring form when they host a resurgent Napoli side tonight in Bergamo.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s team have won all three of their games since the Serie A restart, and another three points here would take them a step closer to securing another top four finish. However, Napoli are likely to provide them with a stern test, having been crowned Coppa Italia champions just a fortnight ago.

Atalanta

Since Gasperini took over, Atalanta have enjoyed the most successful period in the club’s history. They look on course for their best campaign yet under him.

In their 28 league games to date, Atalanta have scored 80 goals – 14 more than their nearest rivals in this category. They have netted on 10 occasions in their last three matches and suffered only one defeat since the turn of the year, enabling them to establish themselves in the Champions League places.

Their maiden season in Europe’s elite competition has been an adventure as well. Despite losing their first three group games, Atalanta squeezed through to the knockout stages, before beating Valencia 8-4 on aggregate in the last 16. A Champions League quarter-final awaits next month for this seemingly unstoppable Atalanta side.

Napoli

If any team can stop Atalanta though, it may well be Napoli. I Partenopei started this season poorly, falling out of the title picture within a matter of weeks. Their disappointing form cost Carlo Ancelotti his job in December, leading to Gennaro Gattuso being placed in charge.

His reign did not start well either, with Napoli losing four of their first five league games under his stewardship. Yet Gattuso has done a fine job of getting the side back on track, with Napoli picking up 21 points from the last 24 on offer.

The club also earned their first piece of silverware in six years, beating Juventus on penalties last month to claim the Coppa Italia. Gattuso’s men have conceded just two goals in their four games in all competitions since football resumed, and they will need to continue to show this new-found resilience if they are to keep Atalanta at bay.

Team News

Ruslan Malinovskyi and José Luis Palomino are Atalanta’s only unavailable players for this contest. The Ukrainian playmaker serves a one-match suspension and could be replaced by Josip Iličić, whose condition is improving after a recent injury setback. Palomino misses out due to a right hamstring problem, which should allow Mattia Caldara to play from the start.

Allan, Fernando Llorente and Kévin Malcuit all remain out for Napoli, but Gattuso still has plenty of options at his disposal after opting to rotate his squad for Sunday’s win against SPAL. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Piotr Zieliński and Matteo Politano were all rested for that game and should be pushing for starting berths here.

 

Probable Formations

Atalanta (3-4-2-1): Gollini – Toloi, Caldara, Djimsiti – Hateboer, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens – Iličić, Gómez – Zapata

Napoli (4-3-3): Ospina – Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mário Rui – Demme, Fabián Ruiz, Zieliński – Politano, Insigne, Mertens

Players to Watch

Alejandro Gómez

Gómez has been at the heart of Atalanta’s surge up the table in recent years, and he remains their most creative player. His 14 assists this season puts him joint-top of the Serie A standings alongside Lazio’s Luis Alberto.

The diminutive Argentinian provided a delightful through ball for Duván Zapata to slot home Atalanta’s opener on the weekend, and he could be the player to unlock Napoli’s defence on Thursday.

Dries Mertens

The Belgian forward recently signed a contract extension with Napoli and it already looks to be a good piece of business from the club. Mertens became Napoli’s all-time top scorer when he found the net in the Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter in June, and he extended his record this past weekend.

Despite their outstanding form, Atalanta remain vulnerable at the back, having failed to keep a clean sheet since January. Mertens will fancy his chances to get on the scoresheet once again.

Previous Meeting

The previous clash between these two sides was a typically entertaining match which ended in a 2-2 stalemate. Napoli took the lead twice through goals from Nikola Maksimović and Arkadiusz Milik, but were pegged back on both occasions by strikes from Remo Freuler and Josip Iličić.

If that contest is anything to go by, we could be in for a thriller tonight.

Sam Brookes

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