Bergamo’s high-flying football team, Atalanta, need to pick up just one more win from their last two Serie A matches to qualify for the Champions League for the third consecutive season.
|Atalanta's fortunes have been|
transformed under Gasperini
Atalanta - whose nicknames include i Nerazzurri (the black and blues) and La Dea (the Goddess) - consolidated their hold on second place in the table with a 2-0 win over struggling Benevento at the Gewiss Stadium on Wednesday.
Their goals came from top scorer Luis Muriel and Mario Pasalic.
Their final two matches are away to Genoa on Saturday before they take on AC Milan in the final game of the season, again at the Gewiss Stadium in the Città Bassa. The title is already won by Inter-Milan.
In the middle, they have the small matter of the Coppa Italia final against Juventus to think about after another exceptional season. Were they to finish second, it would be the highest final place in the club's history.
Playing an exciting style of attacking football, Atalanta have been the surprise package of the last few seasons in Italian football.
Since the 1970s, Atalanta have been promoted from Serie B nine times and relegated from Serie A nine times. They rarely finished in the top half of the Serie A table but since the appointment of former Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini to look after the team in 2016 La Dea have enjoyed consistent improvement.
They have finished in the top four of Serie A in three of the last four seasons, qualifying for the Champions League for the last two years by finishing in third place.
|Atalanta's top striker, the|
Colombian Luis Muriel
They qualified for the knock-out phase of the European competition each time, reaching the quarter-finals two years ago.
They also reached the final of the Coppa Italia for the first time in 23 years in 2019, losing to Lazio.
Yet it remains the case that the 1962-63 Coppa Italia, when the defeated Torino in the final, is the only major trophy in the club’s 114-year history.
It something Gasperini had in mind after the win over Benevento when he told reporters his team “have done nothing yet”, warning that they should take nothing for granted.
“We are responsible for our own destiny. We must keep our feet grounded because we’ve done nothing yet," he said.
“We have two league games and the Coppa Italia final. We have played many matches, but the strength of this team is to take one step at a time.
|Atalanta is named after |
a Greek goddess
“We are fighting, we are in the race with Milan, Napoli and Juventus for a top-four finish in Serie A, and only one won’t reach the target. Anything can still happen.”
Like most teams at the top level in Italy, the Atalanta team is a multi-national group.
Their defence regularly includes two Argentinians, a German and an Albanian.
The midfield stars are a Swiss, a Dutchman and a Ukrainian, while their two best strikers, Muriel and Duván Zapata, are both Colombian internationals.
The home-grown players who have featured most often this season are goalkeepers Pierluigi Gollini and Marco Sportiello, defender Rafael Tolói - Brazilian-born but an Italian national - and midfielder Matteo Pessina.
Atalanta’s brand of free-flowing attack-minded football has thrilled audiences and made them Italy’s highest goalscorers for each of the last three seasons. Last year, they totalled 98 in Serie A, the highest tally by any team for more than 70 years.
|Atalanta play their home matches at the|
expanded Gewiss Stadium in the Città Bassa
This season they have found the net 86 times in Serie A, of which Muriel has 22, level with Inter-Milan’s Romelu Lukaku and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus (28) among the leading individual goalscorers.
Atalanta’s nickname of La Dea stems from the club’s creation in 1907 by students of the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, the important high school in Bergamo, who named the club after the female athlete of the same name in Greek mythology, who had the status of goddess in her own region.
The club’s badge contains the profile of a woman with flowing hair, representing the mythological Atalanta.