23.10.2015 15:00 - in: Serie A S

      Eye on Atalanta

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      Considered the ‘queen’ of Italy’s provincial sides, Atalanta enter Sunday’s match at Juventus Stadium in fine form after accruing 14 points from their opening eight fixtures

      Founded in 1907, Atalanta made their Serie A debut 30 years later. In over 50 seasons in Italy’s top flight, their highest finish remains that of fifth place in 1948.

      Six-times Serie B champions, their history has been characterised by regular yo-yoing between the top two divisions, but they managed to taste Coppa Italia success in 1963 with a team featuring legendary forward Angelo Domenghini, also of Inter and Cagliari fame.

      The club is credited with having launched the careers of other past greats such as Gaetano Scirea, Roberto Donadoni, Filippo Inzaghi and Christian Vieri.

      Atalanta’s glory years would arrive in the late 1980s and early 1990s when South American duo Evair and Claudio Caniggia spearheaded the side that reached the last four of the Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

      Since their latest promotion to Serie A in 2011, the Nerazzurri have established themselves as a solid mid-table outfit and have made a strong start to the current campaign with 14 points from their opening eight games.

      The manager

      Edy Reja took over the reins at Atalanta in March this year, replacing Stefano Colantuono after a poor run of results had left the team in a relegation dogfight. The experienced coach guided them to safety and has overseen a bright start to the current campaign, in which the Nerazzurri have recorded four wins and two draws in their opening eight games.

      Reja spent 11 years coaching in the lower divisions before guiding Pescara to promotion into Serie B in 1990. He would then earn fame as an expert of steering teams into the top flight, achieving the feat five times in just ten years with Brescia (1997), Vicenza (2000), Catania (2003), Cagliari (2004) and Napoli (2007).

      Reja is regarded as a legend by the Partenopei for having lifted them from the third tier to Serie A so shortly after the club was declared bankrupt in 2004.

      A short spell with Hajduk Split would follow before a return to Italy with Lazio. The 70-year-old brought immediate success to a struggling Biancoceleste outfit, guiding them to fifth and fourth place finishes in two seasons at the helm.

      The stadium

      The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia has been home to the Nerazzurri since 1928 and is one of the oldest grounds in Serie A.

      Atalanta share the stadium with Lega Pro side Albinoleffe, while rugby matches have also taken place there.

      Earlier this year, the club embarked on a project to modernise the arena, marginally reducing its capacity to 22,000 seats, removing the panes of glass that separate supporters from the playing field and giving the ground a more ‘English’ feel.

      How are they shaping up this year?

      Atalanta’s fine early-season form is partly down to a resolute rearguard that has conceded just eight goals so far, the joint third lowest in the league.

      Summer signing Rafael Toloi has helped in this department, the ex-Roma man having formed a solid partnership with the experienced Guglielmo Stendardo at the centre of defence.

      Sitting just in front of the back four, Marten de Roon has sewn up the midfield holding role upon joining from Heerenveen, while former Sassuolo and Fiorentina player Jasmin Kurtic has brought energy and strong technical ability to the middle of the park.

      Mauricio Pinilla is Atalanta's top goalscorer so far this season.

      Fellow new recruit Mauricio Pinilla provides genuine firepower up front and leads Atalanta’s scoring charts with three goals.

      The former Genoa and Cagliari striker spearheads a three-man frontline, with Alejandro Gomez and Maxi Moralez either side of him. His forward partners have also hit the ground running this season, the former netting twice, while the latter has provided an impressive four assists so far in 2015/16.

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