A place in the finals of the 2020/21 Coppa Italia will be on the line when Atalanta play hosts to Napoli for the second leg fixture of their semi-final tie.
The 2020/21 Coppa Italia returns to action this midweek as the second-leg ties of the semi-final stages get played out. A week after playing out a goalless draw at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Atalanta and Napoli will once again lock horns, this time at the Gewiss Stadium, as a place in the final awaits the winner.
Atalanta saw off challenges from Cagliari and Lazio to make it to the final four of the cup competition. Following their 3-3 draw against Torino in Serie A this past weekend, La Dea have won just one of their last four games in all competitions. They will be hoping to end this run this Wednesday night and take a step closer to a major silverware in the process.
Napoli, meanwhile, are the defending Coppa Italia champions and beat Empoli and Spezia to qualify for the semi-finals. The Partenopei head into the midweek crunch tie on the back a shock 2-1 loss to Genoa, meaning they are without a win in their previous two games and will need to snap that streak if they are to keep their hopes of retaining the trophy alive.
The first leg last week was an entertaining affair, with Atalanta having the better of chances but some sloppy finishing and brilliant goalkeeping from David Ospina meant Napoli were still alive in the tie. Ahead of this crucial match-up coming our way from Bergamo on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Heading into the game, Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini has quite a few roster issues to contend with. Hans Hateboer still remains sidelined and has since been joined on the sidelines by his understudy Joakim Maehle. In addition, Cristian Romero is suspended for the contest while Bosko Sutalo is also a doubt for the contest.
So, there will be quite a few alterations to the lineup, although Atalanta are expected to continue in their trademark 3-4-1-2 formation. With both Hateboer and Maehle unavailable, Rafael Toloi is expected to move to the right wing-back slot on Wednesday.
Jose Luis Palomino and Mattia Caldara are expected to fill the two vacant slots in the three-man defence alongside Berat Djimsiti. The trio will guard Pierluigi Gollini in goal while there is no looking past Robin Gosens at left wing-back, whose attacking contributions will be vital for La Dea when Napoli come visiting.
Remo Freuler and Marten de Roon are certain starters in the centre of the park, where they will hold the fort, allowing the attackers to work their magic. Mario Pasalic is likely to assume the creative responsibilities for Atalanta while Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata form the two-pronged strike force, with Luis Muriel an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Gollini; Caldara, Palomino, Djimsiti; Toloi, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pasalic; Ilicic, Zapata
Napoli, too, have a number of roster issues heading into the crunch tie against Atalanta. Defensive mainstay Kalidou Koulibaly has been ruled out with coronavirus while his partner Kostas Manolas is set to miss out with an injury. Dries Mertens remains sidelined with an injury as well.
There is some good news, though, with star midfielder Fabian Ruiz back in training after testing negative for coronavirus. However, the Spaniard is unlikely to be rushed back into the lineup straightaway. Gennaro Gattuso fielded a three-man backline in the first leg, which did not look as effective; so expect him to stick to the 4-3-3 formation this week.
In goal, David Ospina should once again get the nod over Alex Meret. Without Manolas and Koulibaly, Nikola Maksminovic is likely to partner Amir Rrahmani at the heart of the Napoli defence while Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Elseid Hysaj slot in as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.
Diego Demme has been an ever-present figure for Napoli in midfield but has looked tired in recent games. So, there is a good chance that Tiemoue Bakayoko comes in at the base of the midfield for the Partenopei against Atalanta. He will have Eljif Elmas and Piotr Zielinski for company, with the former acting as the primary creative outlet for the visitors.
Matteo Politano struggled in the first leg and could drop out to accommodate Victor Osimhen into the lineup, with the aim of the Nigerian exploiting the spaces behind the high Atalanta defence. The big-money signing ought to slot in as the centre-forward for Napoli with Hirving Lozano moving out to the right wing.
Captain Lorenzo Insigne is the undisputed starter out on the left, from where he will look to drift inwards and cause problems.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Rrahmani, Hysaj; Elmas, Bakayoko, Zielinski; Lozano, Osimhen, Insigne
- Atalanta and Napoli have battled in nine matches in Coppa Italia so far. The former have picked up two wins while the latter have won four (D3).
- Napoli have won just two of their last six matches across all competitions (D1 L3).
- Atalanta, too, have just been victorious in their last six games in all competitions, while losing one (D3).
- After a run of three defeats in all competitions against Atalanta, Napoli are unbeaten in the last two meetings between the two teams (W1 D1).
- Atalanta have won just one of their last five Coppa Italia meetings against Napoli (D1 L3). That win came in 2017 in the quarter-finals.
Player to Watch
When he’s on his game not only is Ilicic as fun to watch as anyone in Serie A, he’s also incredibly effective impacting the score sheet- what a magical player
— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) February 6, 2021
The 33-year-old Slovenian attacker is an integral part of this Atalanta side with his link-up play in the final third and the ability to chip in with vital goals on a consistent basis. So far this term, Ilicic has five goals and seven assists from 21 matches across all competitions, including a goal in his most recent appearance against Genoa at the weekend.
Ilicic did not start the first leg contest against Napoli, but the team looked much sharper in attack the moment he came on from the bench. And, he will need to be at his best on Wednesday if his team are to go through to the finals. With the visitors set to field a weakened defensive lineup, they will be up for the taking and the 33-year-old has what it takes to make the most of it.
Atalanta 2-1 Napoli
Both teams will be without some important players as they take the field at the Gewiss Stadium on Wednesday. The absence of Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas, though, will be a major blow for Napoli up against a dangerous Atalanta attacking unit that has scored three goals in three of their last five games. That is why The Hard Tackle is predicting La Dea to come out on top and book a place in the finals of the 2020/21 Coppa Italia.