Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Serie A clash between Benevento and Atalanta BC, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Expectation-defying Benevento prepare for the visit of fellow form side Atalanta BC on Saturday, now sitting inside the top half of the Serie A table – just three places behind their more illustrious opponents.
Filippo Inzaghi‘s outsiders have looked far from overawed since their promotion as Serie B champions and welcome a recently resurgent La Dea in optimistic mood.
Wins over Genoa, Udinese and Cagliari in recent weeks followed impressive draws with both Juventus and Lazio for 10th-placed Benevento, with only a 2-0 reverse against ten-man AC Milan providing a blot on their record of late.
Gli Stregoni – from the Campanian ‘City of Witches’ – have conjured up three wins from four against the odds, rising far above the relegation zone that many observers expected them to occupy by this stage of the campaign.
In just their second-ever season at this level, goal-getting legend Pippo Inzaghi has led his enterprising outfit to prominence, as they moved to within five points of a European place after the 2-1 win at Cagliari.
However, afterwards Inzaghi sensibly spoke of the priority to secure Serie A survival by continuing to “sacrifice” themselves for the cause.
It has not been a case of mere dogged determination at Stadio Ciro Vigorito, as the former Milan coach has instilled a clear identity in his side – with a compact shape, high press and an attacking mentality even apparent against some of the league’s established big boys.
Their impressively mature adaptation to the top level will be put to the test against Atalanta this week, as they too enjoy playing front-foot, full-gas football.
Gian Piero Gasperini‘s visiting side travel south in fine form, with their late-autumn troubles seemingly cast far behind them.
Atalanta’s comfortable 3-0 win over fast-sinking Parma – whose coach Fabio Liverani was subsequently sacked – continued a successful start to 2021, as the Nerazzurri have won their first two games since the winter break by an aggregate of eight goals to one.
Wing-back Robin Gosens scored again at the Gewiss Stadium and the irrepressible German – who recently spoke of his desire to sign for a Bundesliga club one day – has now been involved in the most Serie A goals by a ‘defender’ since his arrival at the club in 2017 (33 in total – 19 goals, 14 assists).
Unusually, Luis Muriel started ahead of compatriot Duvan Zapata, who he generally replaces after the hour mark of most games, and scored his ninth goal in Serie A this season. Zapata duly added another in a second-half stroll to victory.
Muriel has now scored in each of his last four games, which represents his best-ever streak in the Italian top flight. In fact, since the beginning of December, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile have registered more than the former Udinese forward’s five league strikes.
So, with both Colombian strikers now fully firing, goals have begun to flow again for the Bergamaschi and they have closed within a point of the European places – level with Napoli and just behind Juventus.
Their run of 14 points from the last available 18 once more makes Atalanta one of the most feared opponents on the peninsula, so even brave Benevento must beware.
Benevento Serie A form: LDWWLW
Atalanta BC Serie A form: WDWDWW
Benevento boss Inzaghi will most likely retain his favoured 4-3-2-1 set up, with Daam Foulon expected to cover the absence of injured Gaetano Letizia – although forward Riccardo Improta filled in at full-back last time out.
Experienced striker Gianluca Lapadula – who has failed to score since November – should still start up front, with Roberto Insigne and Gianluca Caprari in support. A goalscorer at the weekend, Marco Sau could find himself starting on the bench.
Benevento possible starting lineup:
Montipo; Foulon, Glik, Tuia, Barba; Ionita, Schiattarella, Hetemaj; Insigne, Caprari; Lapadula
Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Ilicic; Zapata
We say: Benevento 1-3 Atalanta BC
Both sides love to take the initiative in games, so a spellbinding encounter could be in store as the Witches take on the Goddess of Italian football.
Expect the heavenly Atalanta attack to edge it at Ciro Vigorito though, with the likes of Zapata, Muriel and Ilicic finally hitting the heights reached last season.
Top betting tip
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