ATALANTA head to Valencia on Tuesday evening as the Last 16 of the Champions League concludes. We asked Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) to analyses the odds and share his best bets.
Valencia v Atalanta | Tuesday 10th March 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Atalanta travel to Spain following a near-perfect first leg in Milan which has put them within touching distance of creating even more history for the club in their debut Champions League season.
To have even got to this stage is a fantastic achievement for the Bergamo-based side and their expected progression to the quarter-final stage is richly deserved for their positive approach to games. Anyone who has watched any Serie A this season will tell you that, despite not challenging for the title alongside Juventus, Inter Milan and Lazio, there have been no more exciting teams to watch than Atalanta.
La Dea’s 70 goals scored domestically is 10 more than any other side in Italy’s top tier and is testament to how Gian Gasperini sets his team up. They move the ball quickly, press high and have a number of options in terms of players that can come into the side in the preferred 3-4-3 formation.
The attacking adventure of the team has blown many opposition away, Valencia included, and you have to admire any group that has scored seven goals on three occasions this season.
Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic have bagged 28 goals between them this season and are arguably both in the peak of their careers so we could see yet more to come from the front pairing, especially with Pau Gomez playing just behind them in the number 10 role.
I highlighted Ilicic in previewing the first leg encounter in Italy and he duly scored on that night in a man of the match performance. Even when the Slovenian is not scoring, he’s linking up play superbly well and laying on chances for his teammates so expect him to contribute positively again here in leg two.
Interestingly, the 32 year-old has – by WhoScored.com’s ratings – been the best player on the pitch in five of his last six appearances in all competitions so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the prices that Betfair and William Hill go with him managing the same feat on Tuesday night.
The striker’s eight MOTM awards earned in 2019/20 is five more than any other player in the Atalanta squad so I’d probably back anything at about 6/1 or above that he receives that honour once more.
No team has overcome such a deficit going into the second leg of a Champions League tie since Deportivo won 4-0 to progress 5-4 on aggregate past the then holders AC Milan, so the odds are firmly stacked against Valencia as it is. Furthermore, when you consider their home advantage has been nullified by this game being played behind closed doors, then the task looks almost impossible.
In addition, Valencia’s form will hardly give the home supporters watching on TV any form of confidence. With just one win in seven, Los Che are in danger of not featuring in any European competition next season which would be considered abject failure with the likes of Real Sociedad and Getafe currently above them in the La Liga table.
Another disadvantage for Valencia is the fact that Atalanta will not have played for nine days come Tuesday evening so they should be fresh and ready to get across the line at the Mestalla. The home team will come out desperate for an early goal to make life uncomfortable for the Black and Blues but that could just play into Atalanta’s hand on the counter-attack.
Valencia have been conceding plenty of chances in recent months as injuries and suspensions have caught up with Albert Celades’ side, particularly in defence. Former Arsenal man Gabriel, in my view Valencia’s best centre-back, is suspended for this match which is a big blow and Valencia will give up chances as they throw numbers forward in the search of a way back into the tie.
Therefore, I think Atalanta to have five or more shots on-target in the game at 8/11 with Bet365 should be considered. It’s landed in 16 of their last 17 games so has a 94% hit rate which isn’t reflected in these odds.
No team in Serie A has had more shots in total and on target than La Dea and with such clinical finishers in the team, I’d expect a relatively healthy conversion rate here which much more space to play in. Betfair have 6+ Atalanta shots on target priced at 8/5 and I wouldn’t turn people away from that either.
Normally I would look at backing cards in a game between Italian and Spanish teams but given that the match will be played with no fans in the stadium and therefore no atmosphere, I’ll avoid that on this occasion and instead sit back and enjoy what should be a decent contest.