Gasperini: ‘Atalanta must aim for Europe’

Gian Piero Gasperini urges Atalanta to focus on Sampdoria ahead of the Coppa Italia quarter-final with Inter, while not setting limits on their season. ‘We have to try for Europe.’

It kicks off on Saturday at 19.45 GMT at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo.

La Dea are really on a roll at the moment, and although they didn’t get all three points, the 3-3 draw away to Juventus was still a show of strength.

They now host struggling Samp ahead of the Coppa Italia quarter-final against Inter on Tuesday night.

“We had comebacks against Spezia, Bologna and Juve, so we’re in a good period of form and feeling confident,” said Gasperini in his press conference.

However, the increased goals at one end have come at the expense of losing their defensive solidity, as even when crushing Salernitana 8-2, they still conceded twice.

“I am not worried, especially as we have been up against some very strong sides lately. What interests me is that we continue to score goals, as that is the best way to win games.

“Sampdoria are tough and it is crucial we focus on them, without thinking about Inter. I won’t rotate the squad tomorrow, because with five substitutions, someone can come off if they are tired.”

Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata are available after injury, and Teun Koopmeiners returns from suspension, but Jose Luis Palomino and Davide Zappacosta are on the treatment table.

Nonetheless, the first choice strikers are now definitely Rasmus Hojlund and Ademola Lookman, with Jeremie Boga also improving after a dismal first year at the club.

“Lookman was helped by coming from two teams accustomed to playing attractive football, like Leipzig and Leicester. I congratulate Lee Congerton who insisted we sign him, paying less than people think, rather than go for other profiles.

“I am pleased that Boga has started to express himself better. I think initially he struggled with the weight of his price-tag and being considered the heir to Papu Gomez, as they are very different players. I expect him to be more vertical in his passing and movement, to be more decisive.”

Atalanta traditionally tend to surge in the second half of the season under Gasperini, so with them already in a strong position, what is their target?

“The Scudetto would be rather difficult, but we have to try for Europe. At least we know that we’ve got Serie A safety locked down! We are only midway through and the only side that has been miles ahead of the rest is Napoli. We certainly feel more confident than a few months ago.”