Gian Piero Gasperini is proud to see Atalanta flying the flag for Italy in the Europa League against RB Leipzig, but doesn’t ‘feel the pressure to win’ the trophy.
The first leg of the Europa League quarter-final is in Leipzig on Thursday at 17.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).
La Dea started this campaign in the Champions League, dropping down after finishing third in their group, then eliminating Bayer Leverkusen with victories home and away.
“I hope the second leg will be the most important game of the tie,” said Gasp in his press conference.
“Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig are of a similar level, but have profoundly different ways of playing football. Bayer are certainly more open, whereas this could be more of a cagey affair.”
Goalkeeper Juan Musso made some howlers in Europe and Serie A recently, but the coach stands by him.
“There were four mistakes on that move, Musso’s was just the last in a chain of them. Unfortunately, when we concede a goal, there’s always a collective responsibility.
“We played one of our best games against Napoli, but not with the focus that a team with an objective has. A top four spot was always going to be extremely difficult, now we want to at least qualify for Europe.”
Atalanta are still considered minnows in Italy, despite the fact for three years in a row now they’ve got further in Europe than any other club.
“People said at the start of this run that we couldn’t justify the ranking, but we have always done well, or at least weren’t a burden. Now it’s just us and Roma in the Conference League, we want to give our contribution and help Serie A.
“An Italian side hasn’t won this trophy since 1999, so we are not yet in a position where we feel the pressure to win after 23 years. We know that if we get past this round, the semi-final would be an extraordinary achievement. After all, we were two minutes away from facing Leipzig in the Champions League semi-final two years ago.”
In the other knockout rounds so far, Atalanta have played the first leg at home, but this time they start in Germany.
“I don’t think it makes much difference, especially with the away goals rule scrapped. You can’t qualify with two draws, you have to try to win.”
“He needs to grow and can do that by playing. He only turned 18 in December, but if he did so well against Napoli and Bologna, it means he can play against RB Leipzig too.”
There is a major boost in the return of Duvan Zapata, who played only one game since December due to recurring thigh injuries.
“Undoubtedly his presence is important. He’ll be on the bench tomorrow, but this time he’s got a very good chance of featuring.
“The difference for us this season is we haven’t been as effective in the final third, but we have always created chances.”
— Gianluca Di Marzio (@DiMarzio) April 6, 2022