“We prepared this game the same way we always do and had a great first half, allowing them practically nothing,” said Josip Ilicic as he reflected on his side’s incredible 4-1 thrashing of Valencia in the Champions League last-16. “Atalanta are no longer a surprise, we’ve proved so many times that we don’t give in. We’re doing some really important things here.”
The Slovenian then went on to discuss his superb goal, which was surprisingly scored with his weaker foot and he explained why by telling Sky Italia that “they closed me down twice on my left foot, so that time I tried with my right and it went well. I tried scoring a tap-in in the second half, but maybe I’m just not capable of easy goals!”
Serie A Match of the Round: Fiorentina vs AC Milan
Stefano Pioli returns to the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Saturday evening, with his AC Milan side desperate for points as they take on the Coach’s former club Fiorentina. The Rossoneri have won just two of their last six away games and – currently sitting eighth in the table – need to drastically improve that record if they are to avoid missing out on European football once again.
Meanwhile, the home side have been much-improved of late, emerging from a difficult run of fixtures to thrash Sampdoria 5-1 last weekend. The Viola will undoubtedly be buoyed by that performance, and look to continue their excellent record against a Milan outfit they have beaten in two of their last three meetings.
Best of the Rest
For Milan’s cross-town rivals, this weekend also represents a vital opportunity to claim three points, particularly after Lazio beat Inter in their top of the table clash a week ago. The Nerazzurri now sit behind the Rome-based side and Juventus in the table, with Antonio Conte’s men fully aware they cannot afford another slip up.
Sunday sees them welcome Sampdoria to San Siro, a team they have beaten in each of their last five meetings but who have improved dramatically since Claudio Ranieri arrived back in October.
Serie A Player To Watch: Mario Pasalic – Atalanta – £1.36
Alejandro Gomez and Josip Ilicic might be the ones writing the headlines, but Mario Pasalic has been instrumental for Atalanta in recent weeks. He weighed in with two assists during Wednesday night’s victory over Valencia, while also scoring the vital winner in last weekend’s clash with AS Roma.
That goal came with his first touch, and almost immediately afterwards it was revealed that the club intends to exercise their €15 million option to buy the Croatian midfielder from Chelsea. Pasalic moved to Stamford Bridge in 2014 but failed to make a single appearance for the Premier League club after loan spells with Elche, Monaco, AC Milan and Spartak Moscow.