After failing to gatecrash Inter Milan’s party at the Giuseppe Meazza, Atalanta will look to round off the campaign in style when they take on Monza on the final day of the season.
Although Atalanta have clinched European football for the sixth time in seven years ahead of the visito fo AC Monza, this season still feels like something of a letdown and a missed opportunity given the inconsistencies of Serie A’s elites this season. There have been far too many defeats and defensively shoddy performances for Gian Piero Gasperini to be completely satisfied with his players.
He has even hinted that it may be time for him to leave the club. Gasperini and the club’s hierarchy recently held a meeting to discuss his future and La Dea’s summer transfer plans. But the early round of talks did not go as well as expected.
Gasperini is insistent that they should overhaul the squad significantly and make it younger to better cope with their more packed schedule in 2023/24. However, the board expressed concern about potential difficulties in the transfer market due to hefty price tags these days and economic constraints.
On the pitch, Atalanta have drastically failed to find much stability over the final few weeks. They will miss out on Champions League football for the second season in a row after suffering a 3-2 defeat in a lively encounter away to Inter Milan last Saturday. And they have now lost three of their last four Serie A games, a poor run that has severely damaged their top-four bid.
With his future well and truly hanging in the balance, Gasperini will be going into this last game of the season intending to win three more points and consolidate a fifth-place finish and a Europa League berth, although it may not be an easy ride against serial overachievers Monza.
As for the visitors, although Monza saw their unbeaten run come to an abrupt end last weekend, the Biancorossi have continued to shine since making their Serie A return this season. Despite a shock 1-0 defeat at home against Leece, Raffaele Palladino’s men still find themselves sat in pole position to claim what would be a stellar top-half finish, something that at one stage would have been unthinkable.
Palladino has overseen an astonishing turnaround at Monza this season, having taken over the charge of the newly-promoted club after just a solitary point from their opening six games. They will not be making up the numbers on Sunday, and they will be keen to finish the season on a high.
The two sides last met in Serie A in their reverse fixture back in September, when Atalanta picked up a 2-0 victory at the Stadio Brianteo. And ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday in Bergamo, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Tutti al #GewissStadium per l'ultima stagionale
— Atalanta B.C. (@Atalanta_BC) June 1, 2023
Gian Piero Gasperini has had to deal with an ever-growing list of injuries to key players this season. He will once again be without the services of Lukas Vorlicky, Jeremie Boga, Hans Hateboer, Matteo Ruggeri, and Jose Luis Palomino. Likewise, Atalanta are still sweating over the fitness of Duvan Zapata due to a recent calf issue.
On the flip side, Gasperini should be able to field Ademola Lookman at some point this weekend, even if it isn’t from the start. Marco Sportiello will be making his last outing for Atalanta in between the sticks, having already signed a deal to join Milan. The same could well be true for Danish wonderkid Rasmus Hojlund, who has attracted strong interest from Manchester United in recent days.
Gasperini is likely to continue with a 3-4-1-2 system, with Mario Pasalic serving as the attacking midfielder tasked with feeding the services to sharpshooting strikers.
Although Hojlund has registered just one goal in his previous eight domestic outings, the 20-year-old Danish sensation should once again spearhead Gasperini’s attack here. Former Leicester City star and Atalanta’s top scorer Ademola Lookman, if fit, could be handed a full recall to the starting lineup.
The Italian boss could go with the back three of Giorgio Scalvini, Rafael Toloi, and Berat Djimsiti. The three will have to keep their shape intact to prevent Monza attackers from running in behind them.
Marten de Roon and Teun Koopmeiners will be tasked with setting the flow of the game. This will allow Davide Zappacosta and Joachim Maehle to put pressure on Monza’s flying wing-backs, especially top scorer Carlos Augusto, who will carry an attacking threat with his late darts.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Sportiello; Toloi, Djimsiti, Scalvini; Zappacosta, De Roon, Koopmeiners, Maehle; Pasalic; Hojlund, Lookman
In a welcome boost for Monza on Sunday, defender Luca Caldirola is available for selection after serving a one-match suspension last weekend. Otherwise, the Biancorossi have reported a clean bill of health ahead of their trip to Bergamo.
Raffaele Palladino should field a largely unchanged line-up on Sunday. But given they have little left to play for, he may hand some of the fringe players with a run-out on the last day of the season off the bench as well.
Monza are likely to deploy in a 3-4-2-1 formation to match Atalanta’s back-three system. The formation also offers the visitors enough flexibility to deploy into a 5-4-1 while defending, which makes them incredibly tough to break down.
— AC Monza (@ACMonza) June 3, 2023
Michele Di Gregorio should start in goal behind the back three of Luca Caldirola, Pablo Mari, and Armando Izzo. Patrick Ciurria and Carlos Augusto will provide the width and look to get on the end of things, especially the latter, who has 11 goal contributions from 34 league starts for Monza this season.
Stefano Sensi may be handed a start in midfield alongside Matteo Pessina after he came on as a substitute last weekend. Dany Mota and Gianluca Caprari will function as the creators in chief, fashioning opportunities and threading the ball forward for striker Andrea Pentagna to take advantage of.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Di Gregorio; Izzo, Mari, Caldirola; Ciurria, Pessina, Sensi, Augusto; Mota, Caprari; Petagna
- Atalanta have won their last three matches against Monza in all competitions.
- The hosts have remarkably failed to record a single clean sheet in any of their last 12 straight appearances across all competitions.
- Monza have not suffered a single Serie A defeat on the road since the middle of January.
- Monza have only failed to score once in their last ten away games.
- Atalanta lost three of the last four matches, allowing seven goals during that stretch.
Player to Watch
The 20-year-old is still learning his trade, but he has plenty of potential. He has already been likened to Erling Haaland as a left-footed striker who possesses sheer pace, a physical presence, and good finishing skills. This season, he has registered nine goals and four assists in all competitions for Atalanta.
The youngster has also excelled with his ability to win duels and hold-up play. It is only a matter of time before he starts to find real consistency. But it’s unlikely that he will be realising his full potential at La Dea, with top clubs – particularly Manchester United – circling around to prise him away from Bergamo.
Atalanta 2-2 Monza
Although Atalanta find themselves in pole position to secure a lucrative top-six finish this weekend, La Dea are in the midst of a recent slump. They have lost three of their previous four Serie A games and have struggled at the back to keep a clean sheet. Having failed to keep a single top-flight clean sheet in their last 12 games, chances could come thick and fast here.
While Atalanta have looked rarely convincing on home turf all season long, overachievers Monza have proven themselves solid when hitting the road. Both sides will be eager to see the season off with a bang and keep going until the final whistle blows this weekend, which should ensure a high-scoring, entertaining game for the fans. But it should still finish with two sides sharing the spoils.