Atalanta and PSG face off tonight in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. The eagerly anticipated match will determine which team will progress to the semifinals of the competition. For the Paris club, it will mean an appearance at this stage for the first time since the 1994/95 season while the club from Bergamo are appearing in the competition for the first time in their history so whichever way the game goes, – even if they’ll prefer a victory – Gian Piero Gasperini and his boys have done their club, their city and themselves proud with their campaign so far.
PSG go into the match on the back of the Coupe De La Ligue final victory over fellow Champions League Participants, Olympique Lyonnais, they have done well to shake off the expected match rustiness caused by the early termination of the French Ligue 1 season with victories in all their friendly, the aforementioned Olympique Lyon game and a Coupe De France triumph over Saint-Etienne. In the past three seasons however, PSG have been knocked out in the round of 16 against Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona, so Thomas Tuchel will be hoping to capitalize on the fact that Atalanta lack experience in the competition knowing fully well that an opportunity like this might not present itself in the nearest future.
Atalanta are enjoying a fairy tale run in the Champions League this season. First, they qualified from a group that had strong favourites, Manchester City along with experienced participants, Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk despite being seeded in pot 4 at the start of the tournament, then they went on to defeat 2001 finalists, Valencia 8-4 on aggregate, scoring four goals in each leg of the fixture. To say that Atalanta have performed above expectations this season is to put it mildly especially when you take into consideration the fact that they also finished third in the Italian Serie A and also looked like mounting a title challenge at some point. Atalanta have approached their games this season without fear and a similar approach tonight will not be surprising.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Paris Saint-Germain possess so many talented players that it is often difficult to pick one out. However, the biggest strength of the team lies in its attack and you can often count on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to deliver. Mbappe’s presence for the game is doubtful but if he passes a late fitness test to be available from the start of the game, then Atalanta would have their hands full. Between Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, they have contributed forty-eight goals and seventeen assists for PSG across all competitions which means that the French club should not have any problems scoring goals as long as both players are on the pitch.
Atalanta are a high scoring side, their ninety-eight league goals this season only falls short of Manchester City’s 102 goals and Bayern Munich’s 100 goals across Europe’s top five leagues. Their danger man is their dynamic and ever captivating captain, Alejandro Gomez, the midfielder has the ability to pull the strings for Atalanta and create chances out of nothing. His combination with Atalanta’s attackers Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic has been nothing short of eye catching and it is no surprise to see that all three players have contributed fifty three goals and twenty nine assists for Atalanta this season. Luis Muriel is another name that Tuchel would have to keep an eye on, the striker is an important weapon off the bench for Atalanta as he has scored twenty two goals in just sixteen starts for the club this season.
Thomas Tuchel has had to deal with injury issues in the build up to this game so much so that he also picked up a sprained ankle himself and has had to move around with crutches. Kylian Mbappe’s appearance is doubtful despite joining the team on the trip to Lisbon while Marco Verratti and Layvin Kurzawa are out with muscle injuries. Angel Di Maria will miss the match through suspension.
Atalanta will be without Slovenian attacking midfielder, Josip Ilicic who is reportedly battling with some personal issues. Goalkeeper, Pierluigi Gollini is out for at least two months with a knee injury but has also travelled with the team while it will be touch and go for Jose Luis Palomino who is trying to recover from a muscle injury.
ATALANTA: Sportiello; Djimsiti, Caldara, Toloi; Gosens, Freuler, Marten De Roon, Hateboer; Gomez, Malinovskyi; Zapata (3-4-2-1) Coach: Gian Piero Gasperini
PSG: Navas; Bernat, Kimpembe, Silva, Kehrer; Gueye, Marquinhos; Neymar, Sarabia, Mbappe; Icardi (4-2-3-1) Coach: Thomas Tuchel
I’m Olugbenga and I have a passion for writing. I enjoy writing works on sports, football mostly and I take pleasure in immersing myself in learning about new and exciting areas. I’ve written for over a decade but about 8 years, professionally. I enjoy watching football and talking about sports in general just as much as researching any given topic in order to create exciting and engaging content.