Everything Liverpool fans need to know about Atalanta

After the disappointment of the 2-2 draw against Manchester United on Sunday, Liverpool return to European action this Thursday for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final clash with Atalanta.

The Italian side's stock has been quickly rising in recent years - and they will provide formidable opposition for the Reds at Anfield this week - but they're still far from being a household name.

So, here, we'll delve into who Atalanta are and what the Reds might expect over the next fortnight.

Where are Atalanta from?

Atalanta are based in Bergamo, a small city northeast of Milan in the alpine Lombardy region of Northern Italy. With a population of around 120,000, Bergamo is only the fourth-largest city in the region.

It's located about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Switzerland and the picturesque lakes Como and Iseo.

Liverpool will play the second leg of this tie at the Gewiss Stadium, formerly known as the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, which has a capacity of just 21,300.

The history of Atalanta

Atalanta is one of the oldest football clubs in Italy, founded in 1907 by a group of Swiss students

The club spent much of its early history in the lower divisions of Italian football, and it wasn't until the 1980s that the club began to establish itself in Serie A, the Italian top flight.

However, in the 2010s, Atalanta underwent a significant transformation. Under the ownership of the Percassi family and the management of coach Gian Piero Gasperini, the club experienced a resurgence in fortunes.

The club adopted an attractive, attacking style of play and focused on developing young talent while also making astute signings. This culminated in the team finishing third in Serie A during the 2019-2020 season, securing qualification for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in its history.

Atalanta's run in the Champions League that season was particularly impressive, reaching the quarter-finals and earning plaudits for their dynamic style of play.

Have Liverpool played Atalanta before?

Liverpool and Atalanta have faced off just twice in their respective histories. Both games came during the aforementioned 2020-21 Champions League campaign after the sides were drawn together in the same group.

In their first encounter, Liverpool dominated the away match, claiming a remarkable 5-0 victory. Diogo Jota shined, scoring an impressive hat-trick during the emphatic win.

However, the return fixture at Anfield didn't go as planned for Liverpool. They suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat, with Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens scoring quickfire goals for Atalanta.

Atalanta's Europa League journey so far

This season, Atalanta have had a near faultless run in the Europa League, arriving in the quarter-finals undefeated.

Gasperini's side topped their group which contained Ruben Amorim's Sporting Lisbon, Austrian side Sturm Graz and Raków Częstochowa from Poland.

In the last 16, they met Sporting again and progressed with a 3-2 aggregate win.

How are Atalanta doing this season?

That said, European football has been Atalanta's only saving grace this year.

Having undergone a major squad overhaul in the summer, the side currently sit sixth in Serie A - a position that would only grant them Conference League football next year.

They're five points off fifth-placed Roma and an astonishing 29 points adrift of leaders Inter Milan.

Atalanta are on a terrible run of form and come into the Liverpool clash on the back of just three wins (four defeats and three draws) from their last 10 games.

Elimination from the Europa League will likely spell the end of their season.

Teun Koopmeiners, Liverpool Transfer target

Foto Spada/LaPresse 17 Febbraio 2024 - Bergamo , Italia - calcio - Atalanta vs Sassuolo - Campionato italiano di calcio Serie A TIM 2023/2024 - Stadio Gewiss. Nella foto: Teun Koopmeiners Atalanta BC esultanza dopo gol 1-0 February 17 , 2024 Bergamo , Italy - sport, calcio - Atalanta vs Sassuolo - Serie A Football Championship 2023/2024 - Gewiss Stadium . In the pic : Teun Koopmeiners Atalanta BC celebrates after scoring 2-0 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxITAxFRAxCHN Copyright: xSpada/LaPressex

Best players at Atalanta

There have been a lot of comings and goings at Atalanta in the past year, leaving Gasperini struggling to find a settled team.

Among the major departures in the summer was 20-year-old Rasmus Højlund, who made a move to Manchester United after notching nine goals last season.

Additionally, the departure of their primary left wing-back, Joakim Mæhle, to Wolfsburg left a notable gap, as well as those of Jérémie Boga, Sam Lammers, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Matteo Pessina and Marco Sportiello.

Atalanta swiftly addressed the situation in attack by acquiring Gianluca Scamacca and Charles De Ketelaere. Despite their limited success at West Ham and Milan, respectively, Gasperini recognised their potential and integrated them into his new project.

The engine room will be of particular interest to Liverpool fans as this is where Reds-linked Teun Koopmeiners and Éderson operate.

There are also likely to be a few familiar faces for Premier League observers, with former Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon the club's vice-captain, and Sead Kolasinac (ex-Arsenal) and Davide Zappacosta (ex-Chelsea) probable starters in defence.

Ademola Lookman, once of Everton, Fulham and Leicester, could also start in attack.

Atalanta's style of play

Given the significant personnel changes at Atalanta in recent times, coach Gasperini has had to tinker with his side's style of play.

This season, they've increasingly moved away from a reliance on short passing and creative movement.

While Gasperini still favours a back three, they, along with the goalkeeper, now focus more on exploiting the flanks and utilising long balls to advance into the opposition half.

While their pressing and proactive defensive actions are usually effective, they occasionally struggle against counterattacks and long balls due to their high defensive line and tendency to invite pressure.

This could well end up playing into Liverpool's hands as they look to exploit the space in behind with the pace of Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz.

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