20.02.2015 11:14 - in: Serie A S

      Three key Nerazzurri men to watch out for

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      It’s the turn of up-and-coming starlet Davide Zappacosta, midfield maestro Luca Cigarini and star striker German Denis to go under the spotlight as Juventus.com builds up to Friday’s encounter with Atalanta

      Last relegated to Serie B at the culmination of the 2009/10 campaign, Atalanta bounced straight back up the following year and have been mainstays in Italy’s top flight ever since.

      Despite having never set Serie A alight during their 107-year history as a football club, the Nerazzurri triumphed in the 1963 Coppa Italia for their maiden silverware in the competition and were also UEFA Cup quarter-finalists back in 1991.

      Former Atalanta alumni Filippo Inzaghi, Paolo Montero, Alessio Tacchinardi and Christian Vieri are just some of the players to have also donned the Juventus jersey in recent years. However, it’s the current Nerazzurri crop who will endeavour to make life difficult for the reigning champions once the first whistle sounds in Turin. 

      So let’s take a look at the three key men who will be eager to have their names up in lights when Stefano Colantuono’s charges visit Juventus Stadium on Friday evening:

      Name: Davide Zappacosta
      Age: 22
      Position: Right-back

      Up-and-coming starlet Davide Zappacosta made his full Serie A debut at the start of this campaign and immediately established himself as a key member of this Nerazzurri outfit.

      The 22-year-old initially joined the club in 2011 before leaving for Avellino on a co-ownership deal only six months later. His three-year stint at the Campania-based outfit saw him bag a Lega Pro Prima Divisione winners’ medal during the 2012/13 campaign.

      After garnering many admirers for his performances with the Italy under-21 international side, the Frosinone-born defender returned to Atalanta in June 2014 raring to make an impression in Bergamo.

      A full-back by trade, Zappacosta has also featured in a more attacking role and with three goals and an assist to his name thus far, he has proven to be an excellent outlet down the Nerazzurri's right flank. The youngster has delivered 115 crosses into the box for his team-mates this term, a statistic only bettered by former Bianconero Antonio Candreva (127).

      Name: Luca Cigarini
      Age: 28
      Position: Central midfielder

      Nicknamed “Il Professore” for his vision of the game and likened to Juventus star Andrea Pirlo, Luca Cigarini keeps things ticking at the heart of the Atalanta midfield.

      Known to be a prolific provider of assists, the 28-year-old progressed through Parma’s youth academy before also plying his trade with Napoli and European giants Sevilla in Spain .

      Despite normally being deployed as an inside midfielder, Cigarini has also played in a more defensive role as well as taking up the number 10 position behind the striker. He is recognised as somewhat of a set-piece specialist and his ability to thread key passes in the final third could prove vital for the Nerazzurri’s chances at Juventus Stadium.

      With top scorer Maximiliano Moralez missing out through injury on Friday evening, Cigarini will need to step up to the plate and attempt to take the game by the scruff of its neck.

      Name: German Denis
      Age: 33
      Position: Forward

      Atalanta’s biggest threat in attack comes in the form of German Denis. The striker has netted 48 times for the club in all competitions since joining from Udinese on a free transfer in 2012 and has topped his team’s goalscoring charts in each of the last three seasons.

      Despite featuring on 12 occasions against Juventus in his top flight career, the Argentine has never netted against them. Earlier on in this campaign, the 33-year-old saw a penalty saved by Gigi Buffon before the Bianconeri went straight down the other end and scored during a 3-0 success in Bergamo.

      With only four strikes in 20 appearances for the club this term, Denis is having an indifferent season in front of goal. He has only found the net in one out of his previous seven Serie A encounters, a 1-0 success over Milan at the San Siro in January, whereas this time last year he already had nine to his name. 

      Dubbed as a classic forward, the veteran is a strong physical presence up front and excels in aerial duels. Very much a club career type of player, Denis has only played five times for two-time World Cup winners Argentina since debuting back in 2007.

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