Atalanta VS Napoli, home wins

Match Time:2/22/2021 01:00 Monday  (GMT+8)

Italian Serie A --  Atalanta   VS   Napoli

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Locked together on 40 points in the hotly-contested race for a top-four place, Atalanta BC and Napoli go head-to-head at the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday evening.

The visitors travel to Bergamo after a whirlwind week, in which they showed great spirit to defeat Juventus but then fell to a first-leg defeat on their return to Europa League action.

 

Match preview

The saga of Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso's future gained no further clarity over the past few days - the former Milan boss has not been offered a new contract and has been waging something of a media war with the club - as his injury-hit side beat Serie A champions Juventus on Saturday, then lost to La Liga upstarts Granada on Thursday.

Following the midweek trip to Andalusia, Gattuso muttered darkly about further injury problems striking his depleted squad, openly asking: "What's the point of qualifying if we don't have anyone who can play?"

Even ahead of a loss which came as a result of two early Granada goals, the Partenopei could name just 12 senior outfield players, between major Serie A encounters with Juventus - which they won with a brilliant display of unity at Stadio Diego Maradona - and Atalanta, who they face this week.

Before an uphill task in the second leg next Thursday, Napoli must now take on a fluent attacking outfit who knocked them out of the Coppa Italia in the semi-finals and against whom they have won only one of their last six games in all competitions.

Having drawn just once so far in an up-and-down Serie A season - the fewest ties of any side in Europe's top five leagues - a point against their closest rivals in the table may be acceptable to the ever-demanding Gattuso in the circumstances.

As in Granada though, the Neapolitans have gone behind 12 times this term, but failed to come back to get a result on nine occasions - suggesting a certain lack of character and composure. Going a goal down in Bergamo this Sunday could therefore prove fatal.

Enjoying the benefits of a rare midweek off - as their own European campaign does not resume until next week, at home to Real Madrid - seventh-placed Atalanta prepare for Napoli's visit on the back of a narrow victory over Serie A strugglers Cagliari.

Yet again the matchwinner, red-hot striker Luis Muriel once more proved his attacking prowess to lash home a superb solo effort, extending his lead over compatriot Duvan Zapata as La Dea's leading scorer, with 13 goals - the fifth highest total in the league, despite his role being predominantly a second-half supersub.

Following his latest contribution, Muriel now ranks in third place for Serie A substitute goals in the three-points-per-win era (with 21), behind only Giampaolo Pazzini (22) and Alessandro Matri (25).

With Real on the near horizon, Atalanta chief Gian Piero Gasperini may be tempted into some rotation - perhaps opening the door for a rare start to the ex-Udinese striker - but he will be well aware that the visitors are a direct opponent for European qualification this spring.

Having concluded a comprehensive 3-1 aggregate win over Napoli in the cup semi-finals earlier this month, memories will nonetheless linger of their 4-1 stuffing in Naples last October, when Atalanta were four goals down before half time.

As Gattuso's men have a poor come-from-behind record this term, a much faster start could be the key to success this time around.

 

Atalanta BC Serie A form: DDWLDW

Atalanta BC form (all competitions): WLDDWW

Napoli Serie A form: WWLWLW

Napoli form (all competitions): WDLLWL

 

Team News

A potential new recruit for Roberto Mancini's national side, having been granted Italian citizenship this week, Brazil-born defender Rafael Toloi returns from suspension for Atalanta. Therefore, Jose Luis Palomino is likely to drop out of the first XI, with Bosko Sutalo's place as fill-in wing-back also under threat as Joakim Maehle is now expected to deputise for the injured Hans Hateboer on the right flank.

Either Josip Ilicic or Luis Muriel should start in support of Duvan Zapata up front, depending on whether Gian Piero Gasperini opts to set up with a 3-4-2-1 or more conventional 3-5-2, though Zapata may even be rested ahead of Real Madrid's visit on Wednesday.

Ruslan Malinovskyi, Aleksey Miranchuk and Matteo Pessina are all competing for the other place in front of the central-midfield pair.

Light has appeared at the end of the tunnel for visiting coach Gennaro Gattuso, with the news that Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam have now returned negative COVID-19 tests and can rejoin his depleted squad.

The list of Napoli absentees includes integral attackers Hirving Lozano (thigh) and Dries Mertens (ankle), while both centre-forward options - Victor Osimhen (still struggling with a shoulder injury and recovery from COVID-19) and Andrea Petagna (thigh) - are in doubt.

First choice centre-back Kostas Manolas (ankle) and goalkeeper David Ospina (thigh) are unavailable too, with Matteo Politano also pulling up injured against Granada.

His hand forced by circumstances then, Gattuso will name Alex Meret in goal behind a similar team to that which started on Thursday, with only Tiemoue Bakayoko likely to come in for Politano and - if deemed fit - Koulibaly returning in place of Amir Rrahmani.

 

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:

Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Maehle, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Ilicic; Muriel

Napoli possible starting lineup:

Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Bakayoko, Ruiz, Elmas; Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen

 

Atalanta BC 2-1 Napoli

 

Atalanta VS Napoli, home wins

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