Atalanta v Inter Milan Preview
Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, Bergamo
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Atalanta’s four-match unbeaten run is impressive, but it pales in comparison to Inter Milan’s winning streak that reached 10 games at Partizan Belgrade on Thursday.
BREAKDOWN: Atalanta have established themselves as a solid Serie A side since earning promotion to the top flight ahead of last season, and they’d be doing even better if they didn’t keep on picking up points deductions for match-fixing.
Last term’s 12th-place finish could have been ninth had they not been penalised six points, and this season they’d be seventh instead of ninth had they not been docked two points.
Nevertheless, they have been getting consistent, respectable results in Serie A and will be looking to carry their current run of form into Sunday when they host streaking AC Milan.
The Nerazzurri, who had to play Europa League football in Serbia on Thursday, haven’t dropped points in any competition since the third week of September and have adjusted seamlessly to manager Andrea Stramaccioni’s 3-4-1-2 formation.
Even in the absence of trequartista Wesley Sneijder they have been lethal in attack, as evidenced by three unanswered goals scored at Juventus a week ago.
Antonio Cassano has dropped a bit deeper into the Sneijer role, and with both Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio firing on all cylinders Inter’s run could go for quite some time before it ends.
ESSENTIALS: Atalanta’s injury list includes defenders Daniele Capelli and Gianpaolo Bellini and midfielders Ivan Radovanovic and Matteao Scozzarella. Giancomo Bonaventura, also a midfielder, is doubtful for Sunday.
Inter’s injury list only continues to build. Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia have picked up knocks in recent matches, joining injured defender Christian Chivu. Midfielders Dejan Stankovic, Macdonald Mariga, Joel Obi, Philippe Coutinho were joined in the therapist’s room by Gaby Mudingayi on Thursday, and then, of course, there is Sneijder.
KEY BATTLE: Given Inter’s injury woes, Yuto Nagatomo may well have to move back to a defensive position, which means Alvaro Pereira will likely operate as a left-sided wing-back against Atalanta. The Uruguayan will be going up against right-back Cristian Raimondi, and Ezequiel Schelotto will probably get a good run chasing the Uruguay international as well.
FORMATIONS: Atalanta manager Stefano Colantuono will use a 4-4-1-1 formation with striker German Denis leading the line with Maximiliano Moralez playing just off him. Inter boss Andrea Stramaccioni will deploy his 4-3-1-2 with Palacio and Milito up top and Cassano in the hole behind the two strikers.
BETLINE: Atalanta 11/5; Draw 11/5; Inter Milan 13/5. Both of last season’s matches between these two sides ended in draws.