Atalanta will be aiming to strengthen their hold on second place in the Serie A standings when they lock horns with Benevento at Atleti Azzurri D’Italia this midweek.

With just three games left to be played in the 2020/21 Serie A season, the race for the top four keeps getting hotter. And, Atalanta, who are among the teams vying for a Champions League berth, will be hoping to bolster their chances with a win when they face off against relegation-battlers Benevento on Wednesday night.

Atalanta have enjoyed yet another high-flying season that sees them occupy the second place in the table while having made it to the finals of the Coppa Italia. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, though, are level on points with AC Milan in third and just three clear of Juventus in fifth, meaning they need to follow up their 5-2 thrashing of Parma at the weekend with another win to strengthen their grip on their position.

Benevento, meanwhile, have seen their fortunes dip rather rapidly in recent weeks following a positive start to the season. A 1-3 defeat to Cagliari last time out means, Filippe Inzaghi’s side are on a seven-game streak without a victory, that has seen them to slip down to 18th in the table, three points shy of Spezia in 17th. For them to survive the drop, they will need to collect all points available and hope those above them slip up.

The reverse fixture, played in January earlier this year, saw Atalanta cruise to a 4-1 victory over Benevento with goals coming from Josip Ilicic, Rafael Toloi, Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel. Ahead of their latest meeting on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atalanta

Atalanta welcome back goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini to the squad after he missed the last game against Parma due to suspension. Defender Rafael Toloi, however, remains unavailable due to an injury for the hosts. As usual, Gian Piero Gasperini will set his team up in a 3-4-2-1 formation in front of the returning Gollini.

No changes are expected in the three-man defensive unit given as Toloi still remains out. As a result, Berat Djimsiti ought to start alongside Jose Luis Palomino and Cristian Romero, hoping to keep a lid on the Benevento attackers. Robin Gosens is a certainty at left wing-back from where he will be a constant attacking threat while Hans Hateboer should get a start in place of Joakim Maehle on the right.

Marten de Roon and Remo Freuler are pretty much guaranteed starters in the centre of the park where they will be tasked with breaking up play and initiating quick turnovers. Matteo Pessina, who came off the bench and scored against Parma, ought to replace Josip Ilicic in one of the two attacking midfield slots, with Ruslan Malinovskyi holding on to his place in the lineup.

Luis Muriel, who grabbed a double from the bench at the weekend, should get the nod ahead of Duvan Zapata, who will be an option from the bench for the home team.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gollini; Djimsiti, Romero, Palomino; Hateboer, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Malinovskyi; Muriel

Benevento

Benevento will be without the services of Pasquale Schiattarella, who misses out due to suspension, while Gabriele Moncini, Marco Sau and Daam Foulon are injury-related absentees for the relegation-battlers for Wednesday’s game. Filippo Inzaghi will set his team up in a 4-3-2-1 formation as usual, hoping to absorb pressure and hit Atalanta on the break.

Lorenzo Montipo will man the goa for the visiting side, shielded by a backline comprising of Kamil Glik and Luca Caldirola as the two centre-backs with Fabio Depaoli and Federico Barba as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively. Both will look to get forward and provide width in attack when Benevento do push forward.

Perparim Hetemaj will sit the deepest of the three midfielders and look to cut out the influence of the likes of Matteo Pessina and Ruslan Malinvoskyi, with support coming from Artur Ionita and Nicolas Viola.

Up ahead, Gianluca Caprari and Roberto Insigne ought to occupy the two attacking midfield slots, with the duo likely to play close to centre-forward Gianluca Lapadula and create openings in the final third for the striker to pounce on.

Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Montipo; Depaoli, Glik, Caldirola, Barba; Viola, Hetemaj, Ionita; Caprari, Insigne, Lapadula

Key Stats

  • Atalanta have won each of their last six home matches in Serie A. La Dea have scored at least three goals in six of their last seven home encounters in the competition.
  • Benevento have lost five of their last six games in Serie A. They have shipped in at least two goals in each of their last five encounters in the league.
  • Atalanta have won each of their last three fixtures against Benevento across all competitions.
  • Benevento avoided defeated in two of their last three Serie A matches against teams starting the Matchday in top 5 – a draw vs AS Roma and a win against Juventus.
  • Atalanta could keep three consecutive home clean sheets in Serie A for the first time since March 2017.

Player to Watch

Luis Muriel

Even though he might not be a regular starter for Atalanta, the 30-year-old Colombian has enjoyed a prolific 2020/21 campaign. In 33 Serie A appearances, of which only 15 have come from the start, Muriel has plundered 21 goals and 9 assists, sitting level with Romelu Lukaku and Dusan Vlahovic as the second-highest goalscorer in the league this season.

Having grabbed a brilliant brace against Parma last time out, the striker ought to get the nod ahead of Duvan Zapata on Wednesday night and he will be hoping to continue his good scoring run while helping La Dea strengthen their grip on second place in the table.

Prediction

Atalanta 4-1 Benevento

Atalanta are in red-hot form at the moment and have been scoring goals for fun. At the same time, Benevento are going through a bit of a freefall, with relegation seeming like a strong possibility now. A big win, much like the one they pulled off against Parma, should be on the cards for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, although a clean sheet may not be forthcoming against the minnows, who have been able to find the back of the net in four of their last five games.

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