AC MILAN welcome Atalanta to the San Siro for Friday night's Serie A fixture. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
AC Milan vs Atalanta | Friday 24th July 2020, 20:45 | Premier Sports
Title-chasing Atalanta travel to familiar territory to take on AC Milan with just three matches to go in a pulsating Serie A season.
The Bergamo-based club have played at the San Siro a few times this season in the Champions League so will be no strangers to these surroundings and given Juventus’s slip up at Udinese on Thursday night, this is an opportunity to close the gap that Gian Piero Gasperini’s men simply have to take.
It’s been a wonderful season for Atalanta, perhaps one of if not the best in their history. Having only gained promotion from Serie B in 2011, the journey to the Champions League and title challenges amongst the elite in Italian football is staggering. It’s not just what they are doing which is impressive though, it’s how.
The attacking intent, pressing from the front and overall intensity of Gasperini’s side has made them one of the most exciting teams to watch in world football. Goals galore is always going to attract plaudits but it’s richly deserved and I’m happy to back them to win here at 6/5 with Betfair.
I’d be tempted to back the Nerazzurri for the victory in nearly any game this season and there’s a few reasons on top of their own form to side with them here too.
Milan, despite their decent form since the restart, are going into this game with a defensive injury crisis and Atalanta are certainly not the opponents you want to be facing with that hanging around your neck. Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Conti both went off injured in the 2-1 win at Sassuolo, with influential left-back Theo Hernandez picking up a 10th yellow and subsequent suspension.
That’ll mean that at least three of the back four will need to change here with the possibility of midfield man Franck Kessie dropping to centre-back. La Dea won the reverse fixture 5-0 but would take three points here in any way possible so long as it takes them within three points of Juve, albeit having played a game more.
Pasalic to impress
Given that I’m veering towards an away win, I’ve also taken a look at the player props for the Bergamo players. A player that has caught the eye with his recent form has been Mario Pasalic.
The creative talent impressed during his loan spell in Lombardy so much that Atalanta sealed his permanent services back in June and it seems that the settled status is bringing even better performances to the fore, especially in more advanced positions on the pitch.
The German-born midfielder, who came through the Hajudk Split academy, has at times during the season and in his recent starts been deployed in an attacking midfielder and in five of his seven starts in that position, he has registered at least one shot on target and has hit one or more in each of his last three games.
In a recent match against Brescia, the Croat hit a hat-trick so clearly has an eye for goal – also scoring in that aforementioned 5-0 success just prior to Christmas.
Pasalic has also scored against Roma and Napoli this season, as well as registered 5 shots against Juventus so there is a clear appetite to perform well on the big occasion, a trait this entire squad of players is becoming accustomed to.
Given those facts, the 13/10 price with Boylesports for Over 0.5 Pasalic Shots On-Target looks a decent way in but it may be worth seeing how Gasperini lines his team up once the teams announced before backing, in case Pasalic starts slightly deeper.
Stefano Pioli’s Milan contract was extended during midweek following their positive run of results but I don’t think they’ll have had a tougher test under his stewardship than they will face on Friday night, especially considering the defensive absentees.
Atalanta have won 11 of their last 13 fixtures and have recorded a superb 19.1 shots per game on average in Serie A in 2019/20 so will continue to be a formidable force for the remainder of the domestic season and into the Champions League In August.
With little home advantage, I’m backing the away side to keep the Coppa Campioni d'Italia race going for a bit longer at least.
AC Milan vs Atalanta – Atalanta to win (6/5 Betfair)
AC Milan vs Atalanta – Mario Pasalic Over 0.5 Shot on-Target (13/10 Boylesports)