Atalanta v PSG Preview

Atalanta’s scintillating brand of football placed them within exclusive company in the Champions League, having joined a list of sides who made the quarter-finals of the competition in their debuting campaign – a list that includes: Deportivo la Coruna (2000/01), Malaga (2012/13) and Leicester City (16/17).

Their resounding two-leg victory (8-4) over Valencia in the last round highlighted Atalanta’s attacking fluidity, breaking through their porous backline by overloading the opposition in wide midfield areas. Atalanta’s movement in the final third was orchestrated by Josip Ilicic, a tall, imposing forward – who certainly imposed himself at the Mestalla Stadium – scoring all four of their goals.

Attack – The Best Form of Defence?

The nature of their setup, exploiting space out wide and using midfielders as shadow runners, with anchors down the wings, leaves them exposed out of possession. Atalanta are often vulnerable to attacks through the central areas but are rewarded with a high attacking output.

Through huge shot numbers and players outperforming their expected goals, Atalanta are the continents best scoring outfit, outscoring the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich throughout the domestic season.

A high goalscoring output is one that will be desired in a contest of this magnitude and with PSG’s bloodthirsty front-two, Atalanta’s higher than sought-after goals conceded count will encourage the visitors when possession is turned over. The Nerazzurri non-surprisingly possess a high expected goal against ratio – the highest of the teams remaining in the competition.

Gasperini may look to combat that statistic by adjusting the number of players he commits forward, perhaps discarding one of his midfield runners and wide midfielders in an attempt to add balance to a solely attacking based system.

Gasperini ready for Quarter Final

The one-legged match will be played at the Estadio da Luz after the remainder of UEFA’s showpiece competition was switched to Lisbon in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Missing Piece Of The Jigsaw

PSG have already claimed the three domestic honours on offer and are now looking to triumph on the continental stage for the first time.

Thomas Tuchel’s intriguing tactical philosophy is similar in it’s output to Gasperini’s Atalanta, but there is more of an emphasis towards controlling possession, rather than breaking quickly.

Tuchel introduced a position play approach, ensuring that the player in possession has at least two passing options. The more options and solutions, the fewer errors forced by the opposition.

Tuchel will look to attack hard.

His method encourages structure in possession, movement and pressing in an asymmetric 4-4-2 while committing this volume of numbers to the attack causes issues in the defensive transition, with their attempts to overwhelm the opposition in the possession, leading to problems without it.

These problems in combatting an aggressive turnover of the ball will be a potential avenue to exploit, should Atalanta ride out PSG’s breadth of attacking superstars.

The Parisians were unstoppable in the group stages, executing their tactic superbly and putting their opponents to the sword. Tuchel’s side dropped two points in qualifying – scoring 17 and conceding two.

Team news

Atalanta will be without key forward Josip Ilicic in all likelihood, due to personal matters. They are also missing goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini due to a knee ligament tear.

PSG travel to the Estadio da Luz without a fully fit squad to choose from, having accumulated a couple of injuries in their preparation for this contest.

Argentinian winger Angel Di Maria is suspended, while midfielder Marco Veratti is out with a calf problem and wonder kid Kylian Mbappe is sidelined with an ankle injury, despite returning to training. PSG also have defensive concerns, having lost Tilo Kehrer and Layvin Kurzawa to a bone fracture and thigh strain respectively.

Predictions

Although Atalanta have steamrolled teams with their interchangeable and ruthless three at the back system in other domestic competitions, Gasperini’s side have struggled to maintain equal levels of output in European competition. Until last time out in their round of 16 clashes against Valencia, the Nerazzurri stumbled to qualification out of their group, underperformed to their expected goals and were exploited defensively, conceding 12.

PSG will find inspiration if they ever needed it, to outperform, outthink and ultimately, outscore their opposition even without Kylian Mbappe. The key to dominating Atalanta will be overloading the central areas and through Tuchel’s measured approach in possession, PSG will look to exploit the deficiency in Gasperini’s philosophy. In their attempts to control the game, Tuchel could switch to the 4-3-3 formation, as opposed to his trusty 4-4-2.

Having sealed Champions League qualification for the second consecutive season and running the top two in Serie A close, Atalanta have been dealt a huge blow in their loss to Josip Ilicic. The centre forward scored 15, three less than strike partner Duvan Zapata, with the latter often profiting from the Slovenian’s movement. Their indispensable partnership will be felt, but won’t curtail their goalscoring exploits, having scored 98 goals in the Italian top division. Atalanta’s expected goal output will be crucial to their chances of progressing into the semi-final, as will taking advantage of PSG’s weakness in defensive transition.

With two exciting, attacking sides, it’s a game that promises goals and one that should deliver in that department. Both sides possess the necessary talent at the other end of the field to ensure a fascinating 90 minutes. Neymar is fully fit and has scored 12 goals in his last 16 knockout matches – only Cristiano Ronaldo (33), Lionel Messi (16) and Robert Lewandowski (14) have scored more since 2014/15.

Value odds

At the time of researching odds, there were only a few select bookmakers available to review for this fixture. More bookmakers than those shown will inevitably catch up and also offer odds on the markets mentioned below. If you are looking for an alternate bookmaker or not sure which online bookmaker to register with, you can check out our recommended football betting apps page.

PSG have scored in each of their last 32 Champions League games since the 2015/16 season and remains the longest streak in the competition, while Atalanta’s high number of goals suggests that over 2.5 goals is a valid betting tip.

  • Bet365 – 1/2*
  • Unibet – 12/25*
  • SkyBet – 4/9*

With the likely absence of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar is expected to light up the Champions League. He missed spells of the season with injury and fitness concerns but was able to cut that frustration by slicing through Dortmund in the last round, scoring in both legs while netting the first in the last match. Neymar to score first / anytime is priced as follows:

  • Bet365 – 4/1* / 1/1*
  • Unibet – 21/5* / 11/10*
  • SkyBet – 7/2* / 6/5*

Multiple Market Bets

In the popular request a bet section on SkyBet, there is a selection of potentially profitable bets, with a number of high-value offers. Our tips are as follows:

Martin De Roon’s disciplinary in the Champions League is far from encouraging, he’s committed 15 fouls and collected two yellow cards for Atalanta. Sky Bet are offering 9/2 on De Roon to be carded and Neymar to score*. PSG could look to overload the central areas where De Roon is positioned, should he start the match, he will surely be forced into making a tackle or two.

Sky Bet are also offering a match stat request a bet, with over 1.5 goals, 5+ PSG corners, 3+ Atalanta corners and 10+ booking points each team at 13/8.

Using the bet365 bet builder tool, it is worth inputting: Both teams to score, PSG to win and over 8 match corners at a price of 7/2*.

*All odds shown were correct at time of writing (10:00 12th August 2020) & are subject to change at any time.

Check out our list of the best UK football betting apps if you are not sure which online bookmaker to use.

Conclusion

With the tie being a one-leg affair, it will encourage teams to attack and this could play into the hands of PSG. Their pressing with numbers, build-up play and movement in possession, while progressing through thirds is expected to result in a barrage of attempts on goal. However, this could equally be profitable from Atalanta’s point of view, using the pace of the diminutive Alejandro Gomez to take advantage of the two missing double pivots on the counter-attack.

The volume of goals that these two sides have produced promises to be an entertaining spectacle for the neutral, with the tactical philosophies of Gasperini and Tuchel, set to take centre stage, with PSG hoping to reach a Champions League semi-final for the first time since 1994/95, while Atalanta will use all that’s in their attacking armoury to stop them