Atalanta BC and Valencia head into the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with both clubs acknowledging that they have been provided with an excellent opportunity to make further progress in the competition.
At the midway point of the group stages, Atalanta were struggling to secure a place in the Europa League after suffering three successive defeats in their first-ever campaign in this competition.
However, a comeback draw at home to Manchester City acted as the catalyst for a remarkable turnaround, which was completed with victories and clean sheets against Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively.
While Gian Piero Gasperini's team needed other results to go their way, they deserve their place in the last 16 and are regarded as one of the dark horses to make further progress in the coming months.
Five wins and two draws from their last eight outings in Serie A have moved Gli Orobici into fourth spot, while they are outscoring the three teams who sit above them in the table.
Providing that they can keep things tight at the back, the likes of Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata have the quality to ensure that Atalanta break more new ground with an appearance in the quarter-finals.
Although Valencia are no strangers to reaching the latter stages of European competitions, the Spanish giants are underdogs heading into this tie after their inconsistent domestic form.
While four points have recently been earned from games against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, they have also suffered heavy defeats at Mallorca and Getafe.
Albert Celades has also witnessed his side exit the Copa del Rey to Granada, after initially requiring penalties to edge past minnows Cultural Leonesa in the last 16.
Having topped a group which included Chelsea and Ajax, however, Celades will feel that his team have the beating of anyone, and they may relish the tag of outsiders heading into the next phase of this tournament.
Atalanta BC Champions League form: LLLDWW
Atalanta BC form (all competitions): LLWDWW
Valencia Champions League form: WLDWDW
Valencia form (all competitions): WDWLLD
Alessandro Florenzi - on loan from Roma - could feature at right-back after serving a domestic ban.
While Valencia will have to make alterations, Atalanta boss Gasperini has an easier task with a fully-fit squad at his disposal.
Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti; Hateboer, Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Gomez; Ilicic, Zapata
Valencia possible starting lineup:
Cillessen; Florenzi, Diakhaby, Mangala, Gaya; Torres, Parejo, Kondogbia, Soler; Gomez, Guedes
We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 Valencia
While both teams will feel confident of earning a result in the reverse fixture should it be required, the pressure is on to gain a stranglehold of this tie. Atalanta are the favourites and we expect a home victory, although do not be surprised if Valencia claim what could prove to be an all-important away goal.
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