Atalanta vs RB Leipzig: Preview and Prediction￼
History tells us that visiting Italy for the second leg has always been a tough task as the 2021-22 UEFA Europa League caravan reaches Bargamo’s Gewiss Stadium. Where Atalanta will be hosting the German giants RB Leipzig in the returning left of the Quarter-final on Thursday.
Atalanta is cruising on an undefeated home record in non-UCL European competitions. They have won seven and drawn four out of eleven UEFA Cup and Europa League games played at Gewiss Stadium. The demolition of this record will be an ultimate target of Leipzig who is also aiming for their first-ever semifinal appearance in the UEFA Europa League.
The best Europa League performance of Leipzig was back in 2017-18 which was also their debut European campaign where they were eliminated by Marseille from the Quarter-final stages. Atalanta’s Round of 16 opponent was also from the German top-flight whom they defeated in both legs with ease.
After a frustrating Europa night with Italian combatants, Leipzig had a refreshing takeaway against Hoffenheim on the 29th matchday of Bundesliga. Interestingly, Leipzig’s all three strikes came in the first half of a 3-0 triumph over Die Kraichgauer.
The positive outcome and flawless defensive show have boosted the hopes of Leipzig fans ahead of the litmus test in Italy.
On the other hand, Atalanta was thrashed by US Sassuolo as the Bergamo-based club couldn’t save their Serie A reputation against the Neroverdi. Where they were trailing behind the opponents throughout the gameplay and could only score a consolation goal in injury time right before the final whistle.
Head to Head Record
The first leg of the ongoing Quarter-final between these two combatants was the only instance when they faced each other. It ended in a 1-1 settlement at Red Bull Arena as the Leipzig side failed to take advantage of playing on home turf. Luis Muriel’s curly strike opened the scoreline for the visitors while the 27-year-old Argentine goalie Juan Musso received huge praises for pocketing the Red Bulls’ attack.
We may get to see Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel on the same pitch for the first time in a while. As the head coach, Gian Piero Gasperini is expected to use his trump cards to cash-in goals against the Leipzig defense. The penalty-saver from the previous face-off, Juan Musso was given rest for the Sassuolo clash but will be returning in the starting eleven for this one.
We saw many prominent players of Leipzig returning to the action in their Bundesliga fixture with Hoffenheim. Likes of Dominik Szoboszlai, Yussuf Poulsen and Tyler Adams had impressive outings from the previous game as it strengthened their offensive line. The experienced Leipzig midfield has managed to cover the void left by Amadou Haidara who is ruled out after sustaining an MCL injury during national duty.
Luis Muriel: The 30-year-old Colombian striker is in surreal form as Atalanta’s both goals from the last two fixtures came from his strike. He was the most shining outfield player when they faced their German counterparts a week ago. In the previous defeat against Sassuolo, Muriel was brought on to pitch in the 58th minute and went on to score the solitary goal from his side in the final moments.
Christopher Nkunku: The French forward is always a focal point whenever RB Leipzig plays. He scored the opening goal in just the fifth minute after the kick-off and then assisted Dominik Szoboszlai to make it 3-0 in a thumping victory over Hoffenheim. It will be a litmus test for the youngster as he will be carrying the team’s scoring responsibilities on the stage where all eyes will be on him.
Predicted Starting Lineups
Atalanta (3-5-2): Juan Musso; Jose Luis Palomino, Merih Demiral, Rafael Toloi; Hans Hateboer, Teun Koopmeiners, Marten de Roon, Remo Freuler, Davide Zappacosta; Duvan Zapata, Luis Muriel
RB Leipzig (3-4-2-1): Peter Gulacsi; Mohamed Simakan, Willi Orban, Josko Gvardiol; Benjamin Henrichs, Kevin Kampl, Konrad Laimer, Marcel Halstenberg; Dominik Szoboszlai, Dani Olmo; Christopher Nkunku
Both combatants are known for their super preparations and plannings ahead of facing any opponent. Hence the scoreline is expected to be constant at the end of 90 minutes of gameplay and extra time or penalty shootout will be able to bring results from this neck-to-neck competition.