MILAN (AP) – A year after Game Zero, Atalanta are back in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Last year ‘s game against Valencia near Milan on 19 February was the biggest in the club’ s history, with a third of Bergamo traveling briefly to San Siro for a 4-1 victory.
Shortly afterwards, military trucks drove coffins out of Bergamo because the crematorium could not be traced back as the small town became one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
The game was called “Game Zero” due to the spread of the disease, which spread to both northern Italy and Spain.
More than 40,000 fans at the stadium celebrated each of Atalanta’s four goals that day. The last time the team played in front of its own supporters. “
On Wednesday, Atalanta will host Real Madrid in the first match of the 16th round at the newly renovated Gevis Stadium.
“It certainly takes a lot from us,” said Atalanta striker Luis Muriel. “I believe it is a great disappointment for the people of Bergamo not to be able to be here for these wonderful events, especially to play at our own stadium, not last year when we played in Milan.
“These moments, of course, must be shared with them. They have always been close to a team that has always fought for low places for so many years. “Sadly, I am not able to play these matches with the fans.”
There is a huge gap between the 13-time European champions “Real Madrid” and “Atalanta”, which is only the second time in the competition. But Atalanta coach Ian-an-Pierre Gasperini believes it could help his team.
“We have excitement,” he said. “We are not in the habit of playing these games, but they have played against more famous teams than us.
“It simply came to our notice then. We have some additional motivation. ”
In the past, Atalanta has done well against more historical opposition. In the group stage of this year’s tournament, the team defeated Liverpool at Anfield, just as they had minutes left before beating Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals last year.
Real Madrid was sent to Bergamo with an injured squad. Striker Karim Benzema did not recover in time and stayed in Spain with Sergio Ramos, Eden Hazard, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, Fede Valverde, Rodrigo Goes, Alvaro Odriozola and Eder Milito.
“We have to be very careful, because in the absence of all Real Madrid, I am sure we will find a team that will be even more vigilant, more focused,” said Gasperini.
“Real” is one of the strongest teams in the world. I can not really say how big a gap we have in terms of percentage, but I can say that in these types of games we have always given more, raised the level. “
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