“The important thing is that we won to stay right up there and we’ll give our best,” Atalanta forward Josip Ilicic revealed to reporters at Sky Italia following his side’s excellent 2-1 win over Napoli on Monday. “It’s good in a way that we started the season badly, because we had time to make up for it and now we want to keep that momentum going to the end.
“We’re in the Coppa Italia semifinal too and as we’re at that stage, we want to win it all. We’re giving nothing up. We know the sides challenging for a Champions League spot are very strong, but we want to be there too.”
If there was ever an indication that Atalanta were not going to take it easy on Wednesday night in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal with Fiorentina, this was it.
Whilst many would prioritize a valid chance to reach the coveted top four spots in Serie A this term, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men will relish the chance to go full throttle towards both of their remaining objectives this season, going forward in harmony with their style of play.
“We haven’t said that we’re in the running for the Champions League, but we’re up there, so we’ll wait and see,” the veteran coach told Sky Italia after the match with Napoli. “There is also the Coppa Italia and reaching the final would be a great satisfaction for the city of Bergamo. The thing we have to focus on is that we are there and we won’t let go now.”
Their full-on attacking mantra saw them defeat Juventus—holders of the trophy during the last four consecutive campaigns—by a 3-0 scoreline in the quarterfinal, and the Viola will have to be ready once again for their no-holds-barred approach.
The first leg, now almost two months ago, saw a pulsating 90 minutes at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, a match that finished 3-3. Yet Atalanta may find a different Viola than the one they faced in February, spearheaded by a new man in charge.
After former boss Stefano Pioli quit his position when poor results led to an unprovoked attack on his character by the club, the Viola hierarchy proceeded to turn to their former coach Vincenzo Montella in order to steady a quickly sinking ship.
The team may have only secured one draw and one defeat since his arrival, but a look behind the scores sees a solid performance in a 0-0 with Bologna in the former AC Milan man’s first game back in Florence and a superb performance despite a 2-1 defeat away to Juventus.
The Tuscans shocked the Old Lady when defender Nikola Milenkovic found the back of the net after just four minutes, but just like so many other sides who faced the Serie A champions this term, they were made to pay for missed chances in the opening 45 minutes. Federico Chiesa was unlucky not to score, hitting the woodwork on two separate occasions as Montella’s men played high-tempo football, beating the Juve offside trap time and time again with their pacy counterattacks.
“I liked the attitude,” Montella admitted after his first match in charge. “The way we took the field and were able to organize before attacking. We weren’t able to keep it up for the 90 minutes, but the numbers would prove that we were more dangerous. We missed some luck, but I liked our spirit. We have plenty to work on as these players are new to me, but I liked that they were unhappy because they didn’t win at the end.”
The phrase “organization before attacking” was something that was certainly seen during this weekend’s match with Juve, as the new man has worked on a fault with the midfield that was glaringly obvious and unaddressed during Pioli’s tenure.
This could see Atalanta face a different prospect during the second leg, and one that will provide them with a stern test indeed. Neutrals will still see two sides that love to attack and pour forward at every given opportunity, but Fiorentina now have a stable midfield base from which to build upon.