MX23RW : Saturday, April 17 12:11:19| >> :120:52021:52021:
Feb 21, 2021 at 5pm UK at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia
AtalantaAtalanta BC
4-2
NapoliNapoli
Zapata (52'), Gosens (64'), Muriel (71'), Romero (79')
Djimsiti (55'), Gosens (87')
Piero Gasperini (26')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Zielinski (58'), Gosens (76' og.)
Di Lorenzo (6')

Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Napoli - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Atalanta BC and Napoli, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Locked together on 40 points in the hotly-contested race for a top-four place, Atalanta BC and Napoli go head-to-head at the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday evening.

The visitors travel to Bergamo after a whirlwind week, in which they showed great spirit to defeat Juventus but then fell to a first-leg defeat on their return to Europa League action.


Match preview

Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso reacts in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

The saga of Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso's future gained no further clarity over the past few days - the former Milan boss has not been offered a new contract and has been waging something of a media war with the club - as his injury-hit side beat Serie A champions Juventus on Saturday, then lost to La Liga upstarts Granada on Thursday.

Following the midweek trip to Andalusia, Gattuso muttered darkly about further injury problems striking his depleted squad, openly asking: "What's the point of qualifying if we don't have anyone who can play?"

Even ahead of a loss which came as a result of two early Granada goals, the Partenopei could name just 12 senior outfield players, between major Serie A encounters with Juventus - which they won with a brilliant display of unity at Stadio Diego Maradona - and Atalanta, who they face this week.

Before an uphill task in the second leg next Thursday, Napoli must now take on a fluent attacking outfit who knocked them out of the Coppa Italia in the semi-finals and against whom they have won only one of their last six games in all competitions.

Having drawn just once so far in an up-and-down Serie A season - the fewest ties of any side in Europe's top five leagues - a point against their closest rivals in the table may be acceptable to the ever-demanding Gattuso in the circumstances.

As in Granada though, the Neapolitans have gone behind 12 times this term, but failed to come back to get a result on nine occasions - suggesting a certain lack of character and composure. Going a goal down in Bergamo this Sunday could therefore prove fatal.

Atalanta's Luis Muriel celebrates scoring their third goal against SPAL on August 25, 2019© Reuters

Enjoying the benefits of a rare midweek off - as their own European campaign does not resume until next week, at home to Real Madrid - seventh-placed Atalanta prepare for Napoli's visit on the back of a narrow victory over Serie A strugglers Cagliari.

Yet again the matchwinner, red-hot striker Luis Muriel once more proved his attacking prowess to lash home a superb solo effort, extending his lead over compatriot Duvan Zapata as La Dea's leading scorer, with 13 goals - the fifth highest total in the league, despite his role being predominantly a second-half supersub.

Following his latest contribution, Muriel now ranks in third place for Serie A substitute goals in the three-points-per-win era (with 21), behind only Giampaolo Pazzini (22) and Alessandro Matri (25).

With Real on the near horizon, Atalanta chief Gian Piero Gasperini may be tempted into some rotation - perhaps opening the door for a rare start to the ex-Udinese striker - but he will be well aware that the visitors are a direct opponent for European qualification this spring.

Having concluded a comprehensive 3-1 aggregate win over Napoli in the cup semi-finals earlier this month, memories will nonetheless linger of their 4-1 stuffing in Naples last October, when Atalanta were four goals down before half time.

As Gattuso's men have a poor come-from-behind record this term, a much faster start could be the key to success this time around.

Atalanta BC Serie A form: DDWLDW
Atalanta BC form (all competitions): WLDDWW

Napoli Serie A form: WWLWLW
Napoli form (all competitions): WDLLWL


Team News

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini during the match on January 23, 2021© Reuters

A potential new recruit for Roberto Mancini's national side, having been granted Italian citizenship this week, Brazil-born defender Rafael Toloi returns from suspension for Atalanta. Therefore, Jose Luis Palomino is likely to drop out of the first XI, with Bosko Sutalo's place as fill-in wing-back also under threat as Joakim Maehle is now expected to deputise for the injured Hans Hateboer on the right flank.

Either Josip Ilicic or Luis Muriel should start in support of Duvan Zapata up front, depending on whether Gian Piero Gasperini opts to set up with a 3-4-2-1 or more conventional 3-5-2, though Zapata may even be rested ahead of Real Madrid's visit on Wednesday.

Ruslan Malinovskyi, Aleksey Miranchuk and Matteo Pessina are all competing for the other place in front of the central-midfield pair.

Light has appeared at the end of the tunnel for visiting coach Gennaro Gattuso, with the news that Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam have now returned negative COVID-19 tests and can rejoin his depleted squad.

The list of Napoli absentees includes integral attackers Hirving Lozano (thigh) and Dries Mertens (ankle), while both centre-forward options - Victor Osimhen (still struggling with a shoulder injury and recovery from COVID-19) and Andrea Petagna (thigh) - are in doubt.

First choice centre-back Kostas Manolas (ankle) and goalkeeper David Ospina (thigh) are unavailable too, with Matteo Politano also pulling up injured against Granada.

His hand forced by circumstances then, Gattuso will name Alex Meret in goal behind a similar team to that which started on Thursday, with only Tiemoue Bakayoko likely to come in for Politano and - if deemed fit - Koulibaly returning in place of Amir Rrahmani.

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Maehle, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Ilicic; Muriel

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Bakayoko, Ruiz, Elmas; Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen


SM words green background

We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 Napoli

If Atalanta can keep distraction by their upcoming European glamour tie to a minimum, they must surely take advantage of Napoli's decimated playing resources and fruitless midweek exertions in Spain.

Luis Muriel's strike rate has been frightening in 2021, so the clinical front man can add to his tally this time out - making his case for a start against Zinedine Zidane's La Liga champions next Wednesday.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or draw in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Draw:data


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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Inter Milan30235269274274
2AC Milan30196557352263
3Juventus30188461273462
4Atalanta BCAtalanta30187571383361
5Napoli30192965343159
6Lazio2917484638855
7Roma30166854441054
8SassuoloSassuolo30111094948143
9Hellas VeronaHellas Verona30118113835341
10Sampdoria30106143945-636
11Bologna3097143946-734
12Udinese3089133240-833
13Genoa30711123244-1232
14SpeziaSpezia3088144055-1532
15Fiorentina3079143849-1130
16BeneventoBenevento3079143055-2530
17Torino29512124252-1027
18CagliariCagliari3057183151-2022
19Parma30311162959-3020
20Crotone3043233777-4015

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