Following a coronavirus-induced hiatus, European football’s top-tier competition is finally gearing up for its restart. However, whilst the remainder of the round of 16 ties will be played at their originally scheduled venues, the quarter-finals, and the rest of the tournament, will now be played out in a new, and unique, format in Portugal – which will include single-leg ties, as opposed to the usual two-legged fixtures.
Atalanta – who are as short as 11/4 to reach the pinnacle of the tournament, according to the UEFA Champions League 2020 final odds – RB Leipzig, Atlético Madrid, and Paris Saint-Germain have all already booked their quarter-final spots in Lisbon, whilst eight more of Europe’s elite, including Real Madrid, Manchester City, Juventus, and Bayern Munich will be hoping to join them in Portugal.
Italian side Atalanta have boasted an inspiring underdog story so far in the competition, and as already mentioned, are one of four teams already in the quarter-finals. But that’s not all, the bookies fancy the Serie A side as fourth favourites to win the competition – meaning they favoured ahead of some of Europe’s biggest names, including Barcelona, Madrid, and Juve.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at La Dea’s campaign thus far.
Atalanta, who are currently an impressive third in the Serie A, couldn’t have got off to a worse start in the Champions League group stages. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were on the receiving end of a 4-0 thrashing when they travelled to Dinamo Zagreb for the opening fixture. Things didn’t get much better for the Italians as they lost their first home fixture, which were being played at the San Siro as opposed to the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, 2-1 when they hosted Shakhtar Donetsk next. And, when La Dea suffered a 5-1 defeat on their travels to Manchester City, you wouldn’t have fancied them to progress from the group.
However, Gasperini’s men turned their fortunes around, starting with a 1-1 draw in Milan against Pep Guardiola’s City. A 2-0 win over Zagreb propelled Atalanta onto four points, and it was all to play for with a trip to the Ukraine! Donetsk only needed a point against the Serie A side to progress to the round of 16, although Atalanta ran riot, and flew back to Italy with qualification in the bag after a 3-0 win.
Round of 16
After finishing second in Group C, Atalanta were drawn against Group H winners Valencia in the round of 16 – luckily avoiding the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and PSG. With form now on their side, Josip Iličić and Remo Freuler bagged a goal each, whilst Hans Hateboer notched twice as La Dea beat the La Liga side 4-1 at the San Siro. And, the reverse fixture at the Mestalla was just as thrilling with Iličić scoring all four of his sides goals as Atalanta ran out 4-3 winners – and rounded off an 8-4 victory on aggregate.
Atalanta weren’t as fortunate when it came to the quarter-final draw. Gasperini’s side will face French champions PSG, who are on hot pursuit for their first ever Champions League trophy, at Benfica’s Estádio da Luz on August 12th. However, in their favour, Paris’ star man Kylian Mbappé will miss the fixture. If La Dea can beat the Ligue 1 champions, it’ll be either Leipzig or Atlético in the semi-final.