Atalanta VS Cagliari, home wins

Match Time:1/15/2021 04:15 Friday  (GMT+8)

Coppa Italia --  Atalanta   VS   Cagliari

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Following three straight league wins, confident Atalanta BC enter the Coppa Italia at the last-16 stage on Thursday, as underdogs Cagliari make the long trip to Bergamo in ultimate hope of a first-ever cup win.

La Dea have not claimed the prestigious trophy themselves since 1963 and this year's talented squad are more than capable of breaking that drought.

 

Match preview

The contrast in form between the two clubs could not be starker as they prepare to meet at the Gewiss Stadium this week, with the hosts' current hot streak of nine points from nine - featuring 12 goals scored - lifting them into fifth place in the Serie A standings and the visiting Isolani winless since early November.

Defeating Sassuolo, Parma and Benevento to start the calendar year has cemented Atalanta's upturn in form since sealing Champions League progress in Amsterdam last month.

Their league total of 40 goals is bettered only by Inter, as last term's key protagonists Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata have recently returned to top form - the Slovenian star has registered three assists and one goal in his last three games, while Colombian hot-shot Zapata has hit the net four times and provided one assist in the same period.

Any internal strife thrown up by the breakdown in manager Gian Piero Gasperini and club captain Papu Gomez's relationship seems to have been absorbed without fuss and now the Bergamaschi can continue another fine campaign on a third front this Thursday.

Gasperini's side launch their quest for a first Coppa in generations in the fifth round due to finishing among Serie A's top eight last term and a potential quarter-final against either Lazio or Parma awaits the overachieving but silverware-starved Nerazzurri later this month.

The fact that Cagliari's last visit to Bergamo earlier this season was a 5-2 thumping speaks volumes about the nature of the Sardinian side's season so far.

In fact, only cup progress in the previous rounds - against Cremonese and then top-flight rivals Verona - has brought much light to what is developing into a nightmarish spell.

Since sealing their fifth round spot in November, Eusebio Di Francesco's team have embarked on a run of four draws and five defeats in their next nine Serie A games to slip perilously close to the relegation zone at the start of 2021.

Under-fire coach Di Francesco has spoken of his concern about recent results but also trotted out the familiar refrain of struggling managers - that his men are simply not picking up the points their performances deserve.

Highly-rated players such as striker Giovanni Simeone and extravagant winger Riccardo Sottil, whose father Andrea lifted the Coppa with both Torino and Fiorentina in the 1990s, have so far flattered to deceive though.

It is often said that cup runs build confidence, but to gain such a sorely-needed lift this week, Cagliari must overcome an in-form Atalanta - whose previous incarnations have won eight out of the 11 past Coppa encounters between the clubs, the most recent of which was in January 2019.

Currently conceding at a rate of two goals per game in the league, this is not necessarily the best time to face one of the most fluent attacks on the peninsula.

 

Atalanta BC form (all competitions): DWDWWW

Cagliari Coppa Italia form: WW

Cagliari form (all competitions): DDLLLL

 

Team News

Atalanta's Gian Piero Gasperini has the luxury of rotating his talented squad, with only Mario Pasalic and Matteo Ruggeri absent through injury.

Having deputised for Pierluigi Gollini for a long spell earlier this season, goalkeeper Marco Sportiello may be given a start, with new arrival Joakim Maehle - recently signed from Genk - in line for his debut in place of Hans Hateboer at wing-back.

Up front, supersub Luis Muriel - who can boast one of the best goals-per-minute ratios in the business - is favoured to come in to the first XI for compatriot Duvan Zapata.

Cagliari have Croatia midfielder Marko Rog out due to long-term injury, but Eusebio Di Francesco's squad is otherwise fully stocked.

Though Ragnar Klavan has now recovered from COVID-19 and could therefore feature - at least on the bench - Sebastian Walukiewicz and Diego Godin should still form the central defensive pairing.

Veteran Radja Nainggolan returned to the club last month and could play a part at some stage, while in attack, Gaston Pereiro is expected to relieve the overburdened Joao Pedro, with Riccardo Sottil - scorer of the winner in the previous round - also supporting lone striker Leonardo Pavoletti.

 

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:

Sportiello; Toloi, Caldara, Djimsiti; Maehle, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Malinovskyi, Ilicic; Muriel

Cagliari possible starting lineup:

Cragno; Pisacane, Walukiewicz, Godin, Tripaldelli; Nandez, Marin, Oliva; Pereiro, Sottil; Pavoletti

 

Atalanta BC 3-1 Cagliari

 

Atalanta VS Cagliari, home wins

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