The Genoa – Atalanta game is one that continues to pose a problem for the bookmakers. Two strong, evenly matched teams, matches between these sides are always exciting because they either negate nor compliment each other in equal measure. Last season’s league standings saw Genoa finish 10th and Atalanta a place above them in 9th, level on points, with both sides just two behind Napoli and the much-coveted Intertoto Cup place.
As ever, the league table does not lie, and Genoa have started this campaign strongly again after last season’s mid-table success. Fans of the Rossoblu were concerned after top-scorer Marco Borriello duly returned to Milan after his fantastic spell at the club. Everyone anticipated a tough season potentially turning into a relegation fight, especially without Borriello’s goals, but his replacement – and the season’s revelation so far – has seen Diego Milito emerge as the current Capocannoniere with 12 goals in 14 games played. One of his most important goals came in Sunday’s derby match against Sampdoria, and the fans were singing his name. The Argentine’s numerous strikes have lifted the Genovese up to 6th in Serie A, while Atalanta are running true to last season’s form, positioned safely in the top-half too, in 8th. Sergio Floccari has been in somewhat prolific form himself for Atalanta and has seven goals for Luigi Del Neri’s team. The 27-year-old’s form is one of the reasons why the Nerazzurri are difficult to beat and ever capable of rising further up the league.
The results between the two sides were shared last season. Home advantage proved adequate for both squads to earn their victories, with Genoa securing a 2-1 win at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and Atalanta comfortably beat the lacklustre, travelling Genovese 2-0 at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. Borriello scored in the victory over Cristiano Doni and the Nerazzurri last time. Can Milito do the same now?
The Rossoblu No. 22 has been an absolute danger man, the name on all defenders lips, and the shirt watched by every anxious, opposition Coach. Milito’s exploits have stemmed from his central position and focal point for the team. Like all natural goal-scorers, he thrives on confidence and has the natural instinct to be in the right positions at the right moments. Milito is always dangerous and has scored a variety of goals – some spectacular and highly technical like the volley against Lazio, some inside the box, and (forgetting the one, terrible miss in aforementioned game against Lazio) several penalties. This skilful, little Argentine is living up to his credentials and Atalanta will certainly have earmarked him for some special treatment. However, the current Genoa side has maintained and increased its attacking prowess from last season and hit-man Milito is accompanied by the fleet-footed Raffaele Palladino, Giuseppe Sculli, and the talented Andrea Gasbarroni. Fans of Atalanta will not be pleased to read, that under Coach Gian Piero Gasperini, Il Grifone have scored a hatful of goals, 21 in total, with 16 coming at the Luigi Ferraris. Atalanta have not travelled well thus far and this could be a match that continues both Genoa’s impressive home form and Atalanta’s mediocre away form. Home advantage has often appeared to be an important factor in this tie in the past, so Genoa might be seen as the slight favourites here.
Atalanta should not be ruled of this tie though. They go into the game with a lot of confidence and the hope of maintaining their winning form, as they easily beat Udinese 3-0 last Sunday, and toppled a solid Lazio-side 2-0 in the game before that, with goals from Jaime Valdes and the fantastic Floccari. Generally, the Nerazzurri are a team of mixed-confidences. They are consistent in their inconsistencies winning seven games of the 15 so far, but also losing six along the way. It is a solid and technical group of players at the Atleti Azzurri, which is the perfect representation of a mid-table Serie A side. Under captain and club-legend Cristiano Doni, they have always played to a high standard and it appears they are too experienced to be drawn into a relegation struggle, but may find it hard again to compete for the hallowed European spots. It is vital for La Dea to beat their league table rivals, and neighbours such as Genoa, to remain buoyant in the higher realms of Serie A. Coach Del Neri knows this well and with his famous No.72 leading the side, will stipulate the need from his team to concentrate fully and prepare well for this game in particular. It is a match of great consequence and much more important than the neutral fan would expect for two under-publicised teams. News from the Atalanta camp is that the work in training sessions has been specific in utilising Doni, Floccari and the veteran Christian Vieri. The introspective Del Neri is more concerned with playing to his team’s strengths than allowing Milito and Genoa to dictate his tactics. This attitude was effective against a wavering Lazio side, and worked brilliantly against Udinese also. It will be interesting to see if they remain consistent against Milito and Genoa.
To beat Genoa, at their home ground, would be a great feat, especially when looking at the current form and set-up of the Rossoblu. However, this would make a clear statement about this season’s Atalanta side and their intentions for an improved campaign. It is possible that they could easily roll over and be beaten by a Milito-inspired performance, drift further away from their contenders and suffer another dip in confidence, or alternatively, a good result here could stimulate them into an extended period of positive form and something unexpected this season. It is a tentative series of matches leading up to Christmas which will dictate how a season is likely to unfurl, and the reason why this game is more important than it seems at first glance, especially for the tifosi of the Nerazzurri. These matches have the air of a cup-tie about them, and the strongest teams this season will not rest on their laurels or think about the festivities in the coming weeks. It is essential that both teams’ Coaches and experienced players keep their minds focused on this important period in Serie A, making for a grand series of tough, but exciting matches from now until the winter break.
All the ingredients are there for a classic feast of Italian football; the harsh winter weather, the fact that we are 15 games into a terrific and competitive season, and the meeting of two strong, mid-table teams. All this should provide calcio fans alike with an attacking match that would often be overlooked by the neutral supporter.