RB Leipzig will travel to Italy to take on Atalanta in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals at the Gewis Stadium in Bergamo on 14th April.
Atalanta have been drawn against German outfits in the last 2 rounds of the Europa League they overcame Bayer Leverkusen in the previous round, but were then pitted against RB Leipzig in the most recent encounters.
The first-leg contest at the Red Bull Arena did not prove to be a disappointing event. Although renowned Colombian striker Luis Muriel has been on a domestic drought in Serie A, he defied expectations by finding the back of the net in the 17th minute against RB Leipzig. The home side, however, got back in the game soon. Andre Silva’s penalty miss was not enough to dampen the night for the Germans as Davide Zappacosta turned the ball to his own net when pressurised by Willi Orban.
That phenomenal result paints a stark contrast between the Nerrazzurri’s fortunes in Europe and in Serie A. In the domestic league they have won just three of the last 14 matches and ended up suffering another loss this weekend. Atalanta lost Sunday’s fixture against Sassuolo 2-1, which followed a 3-1 home defeat to Napoli in the last clash.
Once close to the league leaders in Italy, Gasperini’s side are now facing a tough fight to secure a place in the continental competition for next season. There are doubts whether Atalanta will be able to qualify for the top six and they currently occupy the eighth position in the standings.
They are four points behind Lazio in sixth place and although they do have a game in hand, Atalanta might feel that their best chance of securing European football next season is by winning the Europa League itself. They’ve been in amazing form in the competition since being relegated from the Champions League earlier this season and they have every right to dream for more. They have been impressive on the European stage and last Thursday’s draw was preceded by four straight wins.
Despite the fact that Atalanta have won only three of the last nine European fixtures in Bergamo, their recent win over Bayer Leverkusen in the previous round of the Europa League preserved the club’s unbeaten home record in both the Europa League as well as the UEFA Cup. Although their last success in the quarter-final tie of a European competition arrived way back in the 1978-88 season, they will be reminding themselves that they are just three games away from the final which will be held in Seville.
Much like Atalanta, Leipzig have also enjoyed a resurgence in European football over the last few years. However, unlike their Italian counterparts, they have been in much better form in the domestic league, which has pulled them closer to Champions League qualification and a finish in the top four is not far away from their sights.
RB Leipzig hammered Hoffenheim 3-0 with the opening goal coming from Christopher Nkunku, who has been among the best players in the Bundesliga this season. This win followed a majestic 4-1 performance against Borussia Dortmund in the previous week, and there’s no shortage of confidence for Domenico Tedesco’s side.
The French forward has scored 17 goals in his last 27 starts in the Bundesliga and following his latest goal, he has a total of eight goals from nine appearances in European competitions this season. Atalanta’s weekend defence will have to be on high alert and keep a close watch on Christopher Nkunku, who is sure to attract plenty of interest from European heavyweights this summer.
Much has changed in Leipzig following their third-place finish in Group A of the Champions League last autumn. They finished behind heavyweight clubs Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain and got relegated to the Europa League as a result.
Domenico Tedesco has replaced Jesse Marsch and RB Leipzig are currently on an upward trajectory. They have recorded 12 wins so far in this calendar year and have only lost one game to defending champions Bayern Munich. Leipzig are also unbeaten in the last 12 matches.
RB Leipzig currently occupy fourth place in Bundesliga and have a three-point lead over fifth-placed Freiburg and also have a better goal difference. They also overcame Real Sociedad of Spain in the Europa League playoffs before receiving a walkover against Spartak Moscow who were disqualified from the last 16 of the competition following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
ATA vs RBL, UEFA Europa League 2021/22
Date: 14th April, 2022
Time: 10:15 PM IST
Venue: Gewis Stadium, Bergamo
Atalanta Europa League form:
Atalanta form (all competitions):
RB Leipzig Europa League form:
RB Leipzig form (all competitions):
Atalanta wins: 0
RB Leipzig wins: 0
Atalanta Team News: Atlanta manager Gasperini may be tempted to start with star striker Duvan Zapata from the very start. However, the Colombian international has only recently returned from an injury that had kept him on the sideline for several weeks which might put some doubts in the manager’s head who is under pressure following a series of tame displays in attack.
It also won’t be surprising to see Luis Muriel start once again after he found the back of the net in Leipzig in the previous match.
Remo Freuler and Berat Djimsiti have been sidelined with long-term injuries for a while now. Marten de Roon returned from Serie A suspension in the previous clash and should start here. Goalkeeper Juan Musso had also received a rare rest in the previous league fixture but should start between the sticks here.
RB Leipzig Team News: RB Leipzig will be without the services of Amadou Haidara at the Gewiss Stadium after the midfielder suffered a long-term knee injury. Danish forward Yussuf Poulsen only recently made his comeback from a groin problem while Tyler Adams came on as a second-half substitute against Hoffenheim in the last clash.
It won’t be surprising to see Domenico Tedesco name a full-strength starting XI for this important encounter with Christopher Nkunku and Adrien Silva leading the line.
Atalanta possible starting lineup:
Musso; Toloi, Demiral, Palomino; Hateboer, De Roon, Koopmeiners, Zappacosta; Pessina, Malinovskyi; Zapata
RB Leipzig possible starting lineup:
Gulacsi; Klostermann, Orban, Gvardiol; Henrichs, Laimer, Kampl, Angelino; Olmo; Nkunku, Silva
Atalanta have been on their worst run of form since 2016 which has been made worse by the lack of ruthlessness in the final third. The goal drought is a major cause of concern for Gasperini’s side in Serie A. However, they have been in strong form in Europe and in front of their own crowd, they will be pushing for more.
With that being said, RB Leipzig had the best defence in Bundesliga last season and they are second only to league leaders Bayern Munich in the current term as well. Their strategy will be to hold strong, invite Atalanta in their own half, and then break astutely on the counter.