A famous win on the hallowed ground of Anfield got Atalanta BC's Champions League Group D campaign back on track last week, but the Italian side must follow that up at home against eliminated Midtjylland if they are to progress to the last 16.
While Gian Piero Gasperini's men downed a shadow Liverpool side to stay in qualification contention, Tuesday's Danish opponents bowed out after yet another group stage defeat in Amsterdam.
Serie A side Atalanta were deserving 2-0 winners on Merseyside last time out - albeit against a much-changed Liverpool team - to close to within two points of Jurgen Klopp's section leaders, with Dutch champions Ajax also now on seven points.
Mercurial forward Josip Ilicic capped his return to the fold after an extended absence by scoring the opener after half time, before a typically-explosive Robin Gosens run ended with the left wing-back finishing off his right-wing counterpart Hans Hateboer's clever nod-down. It was a goal characteristic of the enterprising and fearless play that has led the Bergamo club to such unlikely prominence in recent times.
On Tuesday, Atalanta will be aiming for a repeat of their 4-0 victory in Denmark on the opening day of the campaign, which was their biggest Champions League victory yet. It was a rare occasion in which both of their previously potent Colombian strikers, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata, started in tandem and both got on the scoresheet at the MCH Arena.
La Dea then followed that opening win in Jutland by coming from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Ajax before an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Liverpool which represented their heaviest ever European defeat.
Debutants in 2019-20, this is Atalanta's second successive Champions League campaign after they finished third in Serie A last season. Despite their relatively modest stature, the Bergamaschi have lost only six of their last 27 European games and have suffered only three defeats in their 23 home European matches overall, winning 12.
While continental form has been largely positive this term, Gasperini's side have struggled for momentum in domestic competition since a scintillating start came of the rails during a first-half implosion at Napoli in mid-October.
They were beaten 2-0 at home by Verona on Saturday, extending their winless home league run to three games, while a 5-2 defeat of Cagliari two months ago was their only home win in the past five Serie A matches.
This week's visitors Midtjylland, however, should offer little threat to Atalanta's hopes of keeping pace with the group's top two. The club, only founded at the turn of the century, have lost all four games in their first full Champions League campaign and it was confirmed that they will finish fourth in Group D after a 3-1 loss at Ajax last time.
After the defeat against Atalanta - their heaviest European home reverse - Brian Priske's side lost 2-0 at Liverpool and both home and away against Ajax. Not only that but the Danish champions have won only three of their last 12 European games, with all three victories coming in qualifying this season.
One of four teams making their group stage debut in 2020-21 alongside Krasnodar, Rennes and Istanbul Basaksehir, they are the only team of the quartet yet to pick up a point.
Nonetheless, just reaching this stage has proved a triumph in itself for the club born from a merger just two decades ago. Domestic champions for the third time last season – with each of those titles coming in the last six years - Midtjylland are the first club from Denmark to reach the group phase since FC Copenhagen in 2016-17.
The Wolves were 4-0 winners at home to the once-dominant capital club at the start of November - their biggest league victory since beating the same opponents by the same scoreline last year - and once more top the Superliga table, with a 0-0 draw at home to AaB on Saturday keeping them just clear of the chasing pack.
Winger Awer Mabil became only the fourth Australian to score in the Champions League with his strike against Ajax, following in the footsteps of Mark Viduka, Scott McDonald and Craig Moore. Born in Kenya, the devastating dribbler joined his current side from Adelaide United, where he had come through the youth ranks after arriving in Australia as a refugee.
Occasions such as these were only a distant dream in Mabil's early childhood, so just making it to Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on Tuesday will represent success for the talented wide man. Returning to Denmark triumphant, however, is likely to be a dream too far for Mabil and his teammates.
Atalanta BC Champions League form: WDLW
Atalanta BC form (all competitions): WLDDWL
FC Midtjylland Champions League form: LLLL
FC Midtjylland form (all competitions): LWWWLD
Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara is likely to be sidelined until the turn of the year as he recovers from knee surgery and though goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini made his first appearance this season at Spezia after recovering from a knee injury, he limped off midway through the second half of Saturday's defeat to Verona with a similar problem.
Both Fabio Depaoli and Mario Pasalic have both been out since the Spezia game, though the former was an unused substitute against Verona and could again be named on the bench, while midfielders Aleksei Miranchuk and Ruslan Malinovskyi are self-isolating.
Gian Piero Gasperini spoke of his side's 'fatigue' at the weekend so is expected to rotate in several positions, with perhaps even twinkle-toed playmaker Papu Gomez making way.
Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Sportiello; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Mojica; Ilicic; Muriel, Zapata
FC Midtjylland possible starting lineup:
Andersen; Cools, Sviatchenko, Scholz, Paulinho; Onyeka, Madsen; Dreyer, Sisto, Mabil; Kaba
We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 FC Midtjylland
Though previously irrepressible Atalanta have faltered of late, the Bergamaschi are more than capable of lifting their weary legs sufficiently to see off the modest challenge of Midtjylland on Tuesday.
It has been a punishing introduction to life at the elite level for the Danish champions and there is only the slightest sliver of hope that they can break their pointless run this week.
Top betting tip
body check tags ::