Serie A's in-form clubs meet
11 November ~ The big match in Serie A this weekend is the Rome derby, Lazio v Roma. But arguably the most interesting game is the derby between Atalanta and Inter in Bergamo, an evening kick-off at 7.45pm tonight. Both clubs have coaches who were born in Rome – Stefano Colantuono of Atalanta and Andrea Stramaccioni of Inter. Colantuono, who celebrated his 50th birthday recently, is more experienced but Stramaccioni, 36, has won 14 of the 20 Serie A games in which he has been in charge of Inter.
This is Colantuono's fifth season with Atalanta in two spells and will be his 172nd league game at the helm. He is very pragmatic and an excellent motivator.
By beating Partizan in Belgrade in the Europa League on Thursday, Inter took their winning run to ten. It was also their tenth away win in ten games this season. Meanwhile, since losing away to Roma on October 7, Atalanta have taken ten points from four games and shot up from the relegation zone to joint seventh, which would be sixth without a two-point penalty.
So two teams in form and a win for Inter, though likely, is far from a foregone conclusion. They will be without Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia in defence and this will mean that at the back there will not be a lot of difference between the sides, especially as Atalanta’s pairing of Thomas Manfredini and Guglielmo Stendardo are two experienced and reliable performers. In midfield Atalanta have the creativity of Luca Cigarini, the energy of Carlos Carmona, the speed of Matias Schelotto and the guile of Giacomo Bonaventura. Whatever midfield Inter select, there is unlikely to be a large disparity in quality.
It is in attack that the gap between the sides is most evident. Atalanta have the Argentinian duo of Germán Denis and Maxi Moralez. Denis arrived in August last year from Udinese and until Christmas he could not stop scoring. Since then the goals have almost dried up, though his commitment to the cause and value to the team remain unquestioned. Moralez, signed last year from Vélez Sársfield, is possibly the shortest player in Serie A, a box of tricks and a handful for anyone when on form, but not a regular scorer. Atalanta have managed just ten goals in 11 games but these have produced 17 points. In the top leagues in Europe this is the highest points for goals ratio.
This attack cannot compete with Inter’s trio of Rodrigo Palacio, Diego Milito and Antonio Cassano. They are all in top form and capable of changing the course of a game at any moment, though Cassano struggles to last more than 60 minutes. If they want to get anything out of the game Atalanta will have to stop them and to do that they cannot afford to let their concentration drop for a second.
The odds must favour Inter and most Atalanta supporters would settle for a point. On the other hand, if Celtic can beat Barcelona, anything is possible. If all else fails, there is the law of averages. Atalanta have not yet drawn at home in the league and Inter have yet to draw home or away. Richard Mason