EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) heads to Italy on Sunday for his latest best bet on the continent.
Bologna v Atalanta | Sunday 15th December 2019, 14:00
“The most important day in the history of this club” is how Atalanta CEO Luca Percassi proclaimed La Dea’s history-making exploits in the Champions League in midweek. Star man ‘Papu’ Gomez added, “it will remain in the history of football and this club” following the Bergamo boys 3-0 win away at Shakhtar Donetsk that sealed progress to the Last 16.
Atalanta are in their first ever Champions League campaign and lost their opening three matches, but clawed their way back to pocket a place in the knockout stages. Only one team has ever come back from a similar situation to qualify – Newcastle in 2002/03 – although that was to book a place in the second group phase rather than the knockouts.
Head coach Gian Piero Gasperini said “we knew we could do it”, even when all appeared lost at the midway point. To make their achievements all the more special, Atalanta have been nowhere near full strength throughout the group-stage, missing Duvan Zapata for months, while on Wednesday they were without both Josip Ilicic and Rafael Toloi too.
Atalanta vulnerable after midweek exploits?
Bodies and minds are bound to be a little wearier than usual then for Sunday’s trip to Bologna at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. Even so, La Dea rarely fail to fire in forward areas, generating more open play opportunities in front of goal this season than any of their Serie A rivals. However, the Bergamo boys haven’t been quite so impressive at the back.
Gasperini’s boast only two shutouts in 15 fixtures against domestic opponents this term and that should encourage a Bologna outfit that retain their own offensive threat, featuring in Serie A’s top-10 in terms of Expected Goals (xG), xG from open play, as well as shots in the box output; encouraging news for goals-based backers on Sunday afternoon.
Mihajlovic back on the bench
Last weekend Bologna head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic made his return to the managerial dugout since being diagnosed with leukaemia in July. The Serbian spent all of pre-season, plus most of the campaign in hospital undergoing three courses of chemotherapy, as well as a bone marrow transplant, before being given the all clear to return to work this month.
Unfortunately, the returning Rossoblu boss was unable to inspire an immediate reaction from his team as they ran into a Milan side that produced their best performance of the season. Nevertheless, Bologna showed the fighting spirit Mihajlovic has imbedded in this team since taking over, as well as plenty of eye-catching attacking football.
The Emilia-Romagna outfit have largely produced exciting and entertaining efforts throughout his reign, in particular over the most recent few months. The 3-2 defeat against Milan was the ninth on the spin that Bologna have seen Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score bank, a selection that again looks our best form of attack at 5/6 (Bet365).
Get with the goals
Collectively, 23/30 (77%) of the duos league fixtures have featured Over 2.5 Goals this term with 16 (53%) of those contests breaking the Over 3.5 Goals barrier. The pair have seen 23 (77%) matches bank for Both Teams To Score backers as the two teams have scored in all bar four of those overall 30 Serie A fixtures.
Since Mihajlovic’s arrival at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara in January of this year, Bologna have delivered Over 2.5 Goals in 12/16 (75%) on home soil, firing a solitary blank. Visitors Atalanta have failed to score just five times on their travels since the start of last season, 19/27 (70%) of which featured at least three goals. It’s difficult to dismiss a shootout.
Bologna v Atalanta – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (5/6 Bet365)