Gian Piero Gasperini urges his players to stick to their attacking style against Real Madrid… but Atalanta boss insists his side are NOT favourites despite Zinedine Zidane having only 11 senior outfield players for the trip to Italy
- Atalanta welcome Real Madrid to Bergamo in the Champions League this week
- Manager Gian Piero Gasperini has promised he will stick to his side’s identity
- Real Madrid are battling a crippling injury crisis ahead of their trip out to Italy
- Zinedine Zidane has only managed to call upon just 11 senior outfield players
Gian Piero Gasperini says Atalanta can’t lose their identity when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 and insists that an injury crisis makes the Spaniards no less dangerous.
The two sides meet in Bergamo for the first leg on Wednesday and 13-time European champions Madrid have travelled with only 11 fit senior players.
Atalanta, who reached the quarter-finals in their debut campaign in the competition last season, are renowned for a high-energy, attacking style of football and Gasperini is determined not to alter his team’s approach too much.
Atalanta are being encouraged to stick to their attacking beliefs up against Real Madrid
Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini does not want his players to ‘distort’ their identity
‘We can’t distort our characteristics, which allowed us to reach the Champions League and be competitive in Italy,’ the coach said.
‘We won’t distort the team, but we have to be attentive and take some precautions.
‘We want to challenge the absolute best teams and we feel in the right condition to give it our best shot.’
Real Madrid are missing several key players for the trip to Italy, with striker Karim Benzema joining the likes of Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Marcelo on the injury list this week.
Zinedine Zidane (left) has taken a 19-man side to Italy with just 11 fit senior outfield players
But the Spanish side are on a four-match winning run in LaLiga which took them to second place, and haven’t conceded a goal in their last three games.
‘The ideal result would be to win, but we need to be careful. We will find an alert and focused team, despite their absences,’ Gasperini said.
‘We are free and calm. We’re not the favourites and we don’t have the obligation to go through. We want to measure ourselves against this team to understand what we’re made of.
‘Real Madrid are transformed in the Champions League. I don’t believe much in their absences; you can take away the talent, but the Real team seen in these last few weekends was a more humble side, which is a quality.
Atalanta will be full of belief with a patched-up Real Madrid seen as at risk in Bergamo next
‘They won difficult matches to climb the table in a difficult moment, that can only be a merit.’
Atalanta have also enjoyed a good run of recent form, winning three in a row and going five matches unbeaten ahead of Madrid’s visit.
Striker Luis Muriel was on form in a 4-2 win over Napoli on Sunday, scoring one goal and setting another up to send his side into fifth place.
‘If we give everything and believe in our characteristics, we can beat anyone. By playing in the way we know we can compete at the top level,’ Muriel said.