Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, commonly referred to as Atalanta was founded in 1907 by some Swiss students and their coach of PE in the gym of the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, Bergamo.

A football club had existed in Bergamo since 1903. Founded by Swiss immigrants, it was known as Foot-Ball Club Bergamo. The rival Atalanta club grew out of a division between different sporting societies in the town. The name is taken from the female athlete of Greek mythology.

The FIGC was unimpressed with the new club and did not officially recognize them until 1914. The current club is the result of a merger between Atalanta and a third team called Bergamasca. The first, black and white coloured and the second wearing a blue and white shirt, merged in 1920 as Atalanta Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Scherma 1907. The team moved to the site of the current ground, on the Viale Giulio Cesare, in 1928.

Atalanta joined the Italian league in 1929. The club first reached Serie A in 1937 but was relegated immediately. The club returned in 1940 and remained in Serie A until 1959; after a single season in Serie B, the club was promoted and lasted a further decade in Serie A before relegation in 1973 led to an uncertain period of promotion and relegation between the two levels.

The club achieved its highest position at the time in 1948, finishing in fifth place, a feat only bettered in 2017. In 1981, the club fell into Serie C1, a blow which revitalised the club. The team returned to Serie B the next season and made it back to Serie A in 1984. The club’s form in Serie A remained uncertain, as it was relegated in 1987, 1994, 1998, 2003, 2005 and 2010.

After a change of ownership, in 2011, Atalanta immediately came back to Serie A, where it has been ever since.

But still, the fortune of the club remained the same – a jolly-bash for the big gun of Italian Football.

In the summer of 2016, Gian Piero Gasperini was appointed manager of Atalanta. In his first season in charge, Atalanta finished fourth in the Serie A and thus qualified to the UEFA Europa League.

In 2017–18, Atalanta placed 7th in the league, earning them a berth for the chance to qualify for 2018–19 UEFA Europa League group stage. However, they were defeated by Danish side FC København in the final of qualification.

Gasperini changed his plans in the following season and invested more in attack than defence – an un-Italian way, but it paid rich dividends because it not only gave him results but also, it earned him fan followers like Pep Guardiola.

In 2018–19, Atalanta struggled at the beginning of the season, getting only 1 win in their first 8 matches. A strong second half to the season including a 13-match unbeaten run to end the season meant Atalanta finished 3rd in the league, qualifying to the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in their history.

Atalanta also made the finals of the 2018–19 Coppa Italia, knocking out defending champions Juventus 3–0 in the Quarter Finals. In a tightly contested final, Atalanta lost 2–0 to Lazio.

In the 2019-20 season, Gasperini’s side has reached a level, where they can stun big teams and dream big. In the Serie A, they had scored more goals than the champions Juventus and entertained everyone.

Atalanta won 9 Serie A games in a row for the first time in their club’s history after a 2–0 win against Sampdoria in July 2020. Zapata scored his 15th goal of the season in a 2–2 draw against Juventus, making it the first time since Juventus in 1952 that a Serie A club had 3 players with 15 or more goals in a season (Muriel, Iličić, Zapata).

After a 1–0 win against Bologna on 21 July, Atalanta mathematically secured a top four finish, qualifying for the Champions League for the second consecutive season; they eventually finished the season in third place.

Atalanta began their Champions League campaign with a 4–0 loss away to Dinamo Zagreb, followed by a 2–1 loss at home to Shakhtar Donetsk and a 5–1 loss away to Manchester City. Atalanta got their first-ever Champions League point with a 1–1 draw at home to Manchester City. After a 3–0 away win against Shakhtar on the final matchday, Atalanta qualified for the Champions League round of 16 for the first time in their history and became the second time a club has advanced to the round of 16 after losing its opening three matches, after Newcastle United in 2002–03.

Atalanta played their first-ever Champions League knockout match against Valencia in the round of 16, winning the first leg 4–1. The team later advanced to the quarterfinals after a 4–3 away win against Valencia in the second leg.

Atalanta would feature in the quarterfinals for the first time in their footballing history.

If any person deserves the credit then it is none other than Gasperini.

He has been the agent of change for this club.

The charismatic character is renowned for his faith in young talents and attacking football.

Gasperini is known for using a fluid 3–4–3 formation and a spectacular high–risk hyper–offensive-minded possession-based system, which relies on the versatility of his midfielders and front–line.

His style focuses more on scoring goals, off–the–ball movement, and quick, short passes on the ground, and less focus on long balls and the defensive aspect of the game; as such, at times his trademark 3–4–3 system resembles a 3–4–1–2, 3–2–4–1, 3–5–2, or 3–4–2–1 formation, with energetic overlapping attacking wing-backs in lieu of wide midfielders, that provide width along the flanks and push up the pitch when going forward. He has also been known to use a 4–3–3 on occasion.

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His Atalanta is known for playing a high defensive–line, and for being very short tactically, with little distance between the attack and the defence.

During the 90s, his tactical philosophy and teams’ playing styles were inspired by Dutch football, namely Louis van Gaal’s Ajax side, rather than Arrigo Sacchi’s 4–4–2 system.

When defending off the ball, his teams are also known for the use of heavy pressing, but also apply elements of fluid man-marking across the entire pitch, and often switch to a 5–4–1 formation defensively.

Gasperini favours using hard-working and highly physical two–way players in midfield rather than a deep-lying playmaker, but also quick, talented, technical, diminutive, slender, elusive, and creative players up–front, in order to implement his system effectively; he has also been known to use a larger and more physical centre-forward upfront on occasion, who is good in the air.

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Despite the acclaim he has garnered due to his offensive playing style, which has led him to obtain successful results with smaller teams, he has also drawn criticism for his unbalanced approach, and for his team’s tendency to concede goals as well as scoring them.

Keeping his attacking intent in mind, the clash against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), might come handy. Even though PSG have injury and suspension issues, but the Brazilian superstar Neymar is looking sharper than ever and the way his backline remains unsecured when the team advances forward to attack, Neymar would exploit that big time.

For Neymar, Gasperini’s plan is simple as he said, “He is undoubtedly one of the strongest in the world. It’s a problem for anyone to face him. The best way to defend is to play well. We’ll try to stop him with our organisation. We’ve faced a lot of strong players”.

Gasperini feels he has a responsibility towards the people of Italy and Bergamo, which was badly hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We know very well the anticipation around this match, given the passion and love around Bergamo for Atalanta,”  he said.

“This year, there is even more motivation given all that has happened. It’s a football match but we have to represent our region in the best way possible.”

“We arrive in the best mental condition. We’ve got some very important results after the lockdown.”

“We are proof that even a team without a European heritage can do well and achieve important goals through playing, enthusiasm and other things.”

“We have a responsibility to ourselves not to disappoint. We want to continue to show that Atalanta can sit at the table of the biggest clubs.”

Atalanta is the only club from Italy in the quarterfinals and surely the whole of Italy would be behind them in the most anticipated clash of this season’s Champions League.

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