On the matchday seven of Serie A, Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta host Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan in one of the fixtures of the weekend. Both the teams are coming from a midweek loss in their respective Champions League campaigns and will be looking to bounce back. Atalanta were destroyed by the English champions Liverpool 5-0, whereas Conte’s men were humbled 3-2 by the Spanish giants, Real Madrid. Atalanta are fourth in Serie A, and Inter are sixth. The importance of the match between the two title challengers is much greater than usual as we gear up for a close title run this year.
The two teams have had a similar start, both showing inconsistent signs. The Bergamo-based side have faced problems in their defensive setup and have leaked 13 goals in six league matches. On the other hand, the Milan outfit are facing issues in converting their chances into goals. In their last outing against Parma, they racked up an xG of 3.04 compared to 0.83 of their opponents. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Gasperini will instil a three-at-the-back formation with two wing-backs. Atalanta are known for playing a high pressing system with quick short passes. Along with these, their positional rotation throughout the match makes them so good. Gomez will sit behind their star strikers, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata.
Expected Lineup: Marco Sportiello, Rafael Tolói, Jose Palomino, Berat Djimsiti, Hans Hateboer, Marten de Roon, Remo Freuler, Johan Mojica, Alejandro Gómez, Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata.
Inter too set-up in a three-back formation. Both sides play the exact same formation. Their star striker, Romelu Lukaku will most likely be out for the clash, and Alexis Sanchez will probably lead the line-up with the Argentine Lautoro Martinez.
Expected Lineup: Samir Handanović, Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij, Aleksandar Kolarov, Achraf Hakimi, Nico Barella, Marcelo Brozović, Roberto Gagliardini, Ashley Young, Alexis Sanchez, Lautoro Martinez
Atalanta’s attacking style
Atalanta have been one of the best-attacking set-ups in Europe over the past year or so. Even if the opponents have studied all about their build-up play, it is very difficult to stop due to the level of complexity. Gasperini wants his defenders and midfielders to attack and the forwards to defend. Atalanta build from the back and progress the ball through the wings. The wide centre backs move the ball forward and form a diamond involving the wing-back, midfielder and either the striker on their side or the attacking midfielder.
Atalanta play a fluid and free-flowing style of football, full of attacking diamonds and intelligent runs. They play a narrow horizontal and a wide vertical block. As wing-backs provide width, they overload the side of the ball to form consistently changing diamonds all around the pitch, which gives the player with the ball multiple passing options. This way, they can play quick passes and open up the play easily with their intelligent movements.
Here is another example of how Atalanta overload on the ball side while maintaining their width on the other side. Gomez, playing behind the strikers usually shifts to the ball side to provide extra passing options and confuse the opponent.
Inter’s attack through the flanks
In a formation involving wing-backs, the biggest difference makers in the line-up can be the wing-backs. Inter have a team full of players who are ready to play as the wing-backs. Their 50 million euros signing from Real Madrid, Achraf Hakimi, has been a vital part of Conte’s set-up. Wing-backs usually stay high up the pitch and will form a 3-3-4 formation whilst attacking. Young or Darmian will operate from the left-hand side and Hakimi from the right. Hakimi’s blistering pace mixed with his creative abilities unleash attacks from the right. Against Atalanta, it won’t be very easy for them to run behind the defenders because, like them, Atalanta also play with high wing-backs. Both the team’s full-backs will have to run a lot and keeping this in mind, the starter on the left wing-back for Inter will be substituted at the half time.
It is no secret that Atalanta are one of the best pressing teams across Europe, and it was one of the main ingredients for their success last season. The players are trained and grilled to press for their lives by Gasperini. While defending, they tend to push their opponents onto the flanks and then overload it to win the ball back. They will have five or even six players at the same time on the side of the ball, making it very difficult for the opponents to break down. Inter are strongest through the wings and usually create their attacks from flanks. It will be an amazing battle of the two sides as their strongest abilities go head-to-head.
Where Atalanta’s press is a little unorganised; on the other hand, Inter form a very systematic press. They don’t rush into their opponents and wait for the right moment to press. Conte’s men had the best defence last season in the Serie A. Even though in Chelsea he was said to be pragmatic, his defensive approach at Inter varies a little.
The wing-backs are probably the most important position in his set-up. Inter usually don’t press from the centre of the pitch. Instead, they block the central passing lanes and aim to push the opponents out wide. This way the make use of the touchline and uses it as their 12th man. As soon as the ball goes out wide, wing-backs are instructed to go out wide and press the man to win the ball back.
The best defence of last season faces the best attack. It will be an enthralling encounter between the two of the top Serie A team. After a disappointing midweek, both of the teams will come with full force into this fixture. As discussed in the above analysis, both teams are strong on the wings, and it will come down to whose wing-backs perform better. Look out for this fixture. It is going to be one hell of an encounter.