PRE MATCH: ATALANTA VS JUVENTUS

Top-four rivals Atalanta and Juventus meet in a crucial clash on Sunday, with three points and a potential Champions League return at stake in Bergamo.


The pair - who both exited Europe at the last-16 stage this term - now convene in Serie A ahead of their Coppa Italia Final next month, when La Dea will play Juve at the iconic San Siro.


Currently fourth in the Serie A standings, still only two points ahead of fifth-placed Napoli despite some outstanding form - Atalanta now faces one of their toughest tests in the race for a place at Europe's top table, where they wish to dine for an unprecedented third year in a row.


After their 3-2 win over mid-table Udinese last week - in which striker Duvan Zapata registered his third and fourth goals from his last three league appearances - Gian Piero Gasperini's side are just a point behind this week's visitors to the Gewiss Stadium and have all their array of attacking stars operating near peak form and fitness.

His team has certainly shone since the dawning of 2021, averaging 2.27 points per game this year - their best rate under Gasperini in the second half of a Serie A campaign. Furthermore, going into this weekend's action, theirs is the top-scoring attack in the top flight, with 71 scored so far.


Though their red-hot domestic form speaks for itself, in only two of the last ten games - against Verona and Sampdoria - have La Dea managed to keep a clean sheet. Though Gasperini's solution is to always out-score the opposition, this may not prove such a simple feat against Juventus.


Atalanta's last league success against the Bianconeri came as far back as February 2001 and, since then, their Turin counterparts have won 24 of the 32 games between the two in Serie A.


While Juventus have now effectively abdicated their long-held title to Inter, they remain embroiled in a desperate battle for Champions League football and must keep their foot on the gas as they travel to Lombardy.


On Sunday, they face a side whom they have beaten just once in their last six games across all competitions, as the gap between two clubs of very different stature has continued to narrow.


Following a routine 3-1 success over Genoa last week, the Bianconeri remain just a point clear of Atalanta and only three above an unthinkable fifth-placed finish.


Although the League's top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines last week, by throwing his jersey away and punching a wall in the dressing room, Dejan Kulusevski and Weston Mckennie stole the headlines on the score sheet.

Back-to-back wins have relieved some of the mounting pressure on head coach Andrea Pirlo - after his side previously picked up only a point from fixtures against struggling Benevento and Torino - and there have been some positive signs among the gloom.


Already boasting the joint-best defensive figures in the league (on equal terms with runaway leaders Inter), apart from the ill-fated debacle against Benevento, third-placed Juve has scored at least twice in each of their last six domestic outings.


Not only that, but they have also registered at least two goals in each of their last seven away games against Atalanta in Serie A - winning four and drawing three.


Final Analysis and Prediction:


A mouthwatering encounter between two very different clubs now treading a similar path should produce a handful of goals on Sunday, as a draw does neither side any favors.


Napoli, Lazio, and Roma remain on the Coppa Italia finalists' coat-tails in the race for the top four, so Atalanta's unremitting commitment to attack could be met by a less cautious Juventus outfit, who are under far more pressure to take the points.


Nevertheless, the Old Lady's abundant experience should be enough to steal a victory, with both teams' fate to be decided deep into next month.


Final Score: Atalanta 0-2 Juventus


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