The two teams are in the knockout stages of the Champions League this Wednesday evening. On paper, this is not the most attractive poster of the eight, between two middleweights of European football. However here are five good reasons to follow this match closely.
Perhaps the most indecisive of the eight double-confrontations of these 8e finals: between Valence, out first in their group ahead of Chelsea and Ajax but disappointing 7th in Liga, and Atalanta Bergame, 4th in the league, and qualified in extremis for the next round in C1 at the expense of Chaktior Donetsk after scored a zero in the first three group matches, difficult to predict who will reach the quarter-finals. On paper, the two teams seem to stand out, with very few stars on both sides but a lot of talented players (we’ll come back to this).
Valencia nevertheless advances with a more solid European experience, since the Spanish club is in its 13th participation in the largest of the European cups, for 7 qualifications in the round of 16, while the Italian team is experiencing its very beginning in C1. Especially, when Atalanta has only four players in its workforce who have already played in the Champions League before this year (Palomino, Pasalic, Muriel and Zapata, for 22 games combined), that of Valencia has nineteen (for 299 matches)… If this abysmal difference certainly does not condition the result of this round of 16, it can count in the complicated moments during the two meetings.
Itbeautiful game announcement
Anyone who has seen at least one Atalanta game in the past two seasons will tell you: theDea develop a most enticing game! Gian Piero Gasperini’s team is Serie A’s best attack with 63 goals scored, an average of 2.6 goals per game. The Torino experienced this on January 25 with a stinging defeat (7-0), as did AC Milan a month before (5-0).
For its part, Valencia does not really have the safest defense in Spain, but can also rely on players of great talent in front like Guedes, or Maxi Gomez. The only bad news for the game (and for Valencia): the absence of Rodrigo, the team’s best passer, and one of the centerpieces of Albert Celades’ apparatus.
To hear from former Ligue 1 players
Even if not everyone will play on Wednesday evening, there are nine players who have already played in Ligue 1 in the two squads, including five French.
Adrien Tameze, loaned by Nice to Bergamo this winter, should not a priori play the game but could still be on the match sheet, just like the young Raoul Bellanova, loaned by Bordeaux, little used also since his transfer. On the other hand, the Croatian Mario Pasalic (29 games with Monaco in all competitions during the 2015-2016 season) could well be lined up from the start, or at least come in during the game.
On the Valencian side, Mouktar Diakhaby, the young 23-year-old central defender, trained at Olympique Lyonnais applies for a starting position alongside Eliaquim Mangala, a former French international, never passed through Ligue 1. On the right, the former right-back of Evian Thonon Gaillard, Daniel Wass (133 Ligue 1 matches) has established himself as indisputable holder, just like Geoffrey Kondogbia (passed by Lens then Monaco) in the midfield, who should benefit from the injury of Frenchman Francis Coquelin (24 league matches with Lorient in 2010-2011) to start. In front, Gonçalo Guedes, the former PSG, where he was rarely used (13 games in two seasons), should also be tenured. Finally, French international Kévin Gameiro will also benefit from a little playing time, seven years after leaving Ligue 1 and PSG.
For the duel of captain Papù Gomez – Dani Parejo
Both players are important figures in their club. To my left, Argentinian Papù Gomez, 32, 220 matches in official competition in six seasons with Atalanta; on my right Dani Parejo, 30, 368 matches in ten seasons with Valence. Both embody the image of the player loyal to his club of which he is one of the emblems.
The two have a very similar profile: midfield player in their thirties, experienced, despite some selections with their respective countries (four each) it is thanks to their club career that they acquired their notoriety and their popularity rating with supporters.
“At Atalanta there are no stars,” said Gomez after his team’s historic qualification for the knockout stages. This is good in Valencia there are not really either, except perhaps local stars, as are certainly Dani Parejo and Papù Gomez.
To discover unknown talents
Both teams have talent to spare. If there will not be, as we have seen, “stars” on the lawn, there will however be very good players.
The Atalanta is based on talented and experienced profiles, but unknown to the general public, such as the formidable pair of recuperator Remo Freuler – Marten De Roon, extremely effective, not to mention the Argentine central defender José Palomino. All of them are in their thirties, have never played in a “big” club, but are the joy of the Lombard club.
On the side of Valencia, the trend is rather to the young fast and technical young like Ferran Torres (19 years) and Carlos Soler (23 years) who should each be aligned on the sides of 4-4-2 of Murcielagos, or Maxi Gomez (23), the Uruguayan center-forward of this team.
Some will certainly animate the summer market in a few months, especially if their club has a good European course.