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Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Genoa - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Genoa - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Atalanta BC and Genoa, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Now hitting top gear, Atalanta BC welcome improving Genoa to the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday, with the Serie A top four in touching distance after an impressive series of results.

Since the arrival of familiar face Davide Ballardini in the Grifone dugout, meanwhile, their visitors have steadied a listing ship and now aim to pull away from the dreaded drop zone.

Match preview

In a scintillating start to 2021, Atalanta have won each of their last three league games by an aggregate total of 12-2.

Not only that, they have scored at least three goals in four consecutive home victories either side of the winter break, bringing them onto 40 goals from their first 16 games - the best tally at this stage of a season in the club's history.

Last term's fearsome attack is firing at full tilt again, as Luis Muriel has scored in each of his last five league games (six strikes in total, with several as a substitute), while Duvan Zapata has five during that period and Josip Ilicic has provided five assists in his last five appearances - only Inter's pinpoint precise set-piece expert Marcelo Brozovic can match that haul in the same spell.

Rediscovering the free-flowing abandon of their recent past, La Dea have not lost since the end of November to sit sixth in the standings, just two points shy of Juventus. In midweek, they progressed to the last eight of the Coppa Italia too, easily beating Cagliari 3-1.

Goals are once more the trademark of Gian Piero Gasperini's widely-admired team and, on Sunday, they will meet what had been - until recently - one of the leakiest defences in the Italian top flight.

Atalanta have won seven of their last nine league encounters with Genoa and are unbeaten in their last four against them in Bergamo, as Gasperini returns to his fondly remembered home of nearly seven years altogether.

A coach of great experience and tactical nous, 'Gasp' is the only manager in the three-points-per-win era to have overseen at least 150 games with two different Serie A teams - 168 with Atalanta; 232 across two stints at Genoa. However, sentiment will be in short supply for 90 minutes this weekend, with an important three points at stake.

Rising slowly from the ashes of a miserable start to the campaign, Genoa have already won more league matches under the returning Davide Ballardini - with two out of four so far - than under the failed leadership of Rolando Maran, who oversaw just one win in 13.

Stemming the tide of goals conceded since the experienced tactician - now enjoying his fourth turn as Grifone manager - took over in December, the change in a squad that previously looked doomed to the drop has been remarkable.

Before the departure of Maran, the Rossoblu had leaked an average of two goals per game, but in their last four league games they have let in just three altogether - including a clean sheet in last Saturday's 2-0 win against Bologna.

Though their much-changed side went out of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday to a cruel extra-time goal by Juventus rookie Hamza Rafia, Genoa are in a far better position to tackle La Dea this week.

As well as shoring up the defence, previously forgotten ex-Roma striker Mattia Destro has scored five goals in his last six league games - with six strikes in total already his best haul since 2016-17.

In addition, this week Ballardini signed another former Giallorossi star, Kevin Strootman, on loan from Marseille until the end of the season, so can plan the trip to Bergamo with ever-increasing confidence.

Atalanta BC Serie A form: WDWWWW
Atalanta BC form (all competitions): DWDWWW

Genoa Serie A form: DLWDLW
Genoa form (all competitions): LWDLWL

Team News

Home coach Gian Piero Gasperini has most of his squad available, as he returns to a more familiar-looking XI after resting key players in the cup.

Midfielder Mario Pasalic is the main doubt for Sunday's encounter, but in any case the midfield four in Atalanta's 3-4-2-1 is a settled unit, with tireless duo Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens on the flanks and Marten de Roon and Remo Freuler occupying the centre.

Former Aston Villa stopper Pierluigi Gollini returns in goal and Duvan Zapata should do likewise in attack, to the probable disappointment of his countryman Luis Muriel.

Luca Pellegrini and Goran Pandev are still struggling with thigh injuries for Genoa and their fitness will be evaluated before kickoff.

After a big turnover of players for the Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus, goalkeeper Mattia Perin returns behind the defensive trio of Andrea Masiello, Ivan Radovanovic and Domenico Criscito.

In-form pair Mattia Destro and Eldor Shomurodov should reunite as the front two in Ballardini's 3-5-2 formation, as new midfield recruit Kevin Strootman awaits his debut from the bench.

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Toloi, Romero, Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Ilicic; Zapata

Genoa possible starting lineup:
Perin; Masiello, Radovanovic, Criscito; Zappacosta, Behrami, Badelj, Zajc, Czyborra; Shomurodov, Destro

We say: Atalanta BC 3-2 Genoa

Atalanta's groundswell of momentum surely cannot be stopped by Genoa on Sunday, as goals continue to rain in from all quarters of the Nerazzurri's high-energy team.

Nonetheless, the Grifone can push them all the way now that they seem to have found some form and purpose after a dark late-autumn spell.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data

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