Having seen the gap to their pursuers close over recent weeks, Atalanta BC host lowly Cagliari on Sunday, seeking to retain their top four place.
Just one win from their last five Serie A outings leaves La Dea only a point clear of fifth-placed Juventus, while a recent revival has helped their visitors to climb within a point of safety.
Ending last month with successive 0-0 draws against Inter and Lazio, after a brief break, Atalanta return to top-flight action in the unaccustomed position of having last scored a league goal almost a month ago.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side would draw three Serie A matches in succession for the first time since 2017 should they be held by Cagliari this weekend, and the possibility of three goalless games in a row – which would be a first for the Bergamaschi – still remains.
Renowned as one of Calcio’s most entertaining teams, Atalanta may have dried up somewhat in front of goal, but are still unbeaten away from home in domestic competition this season, after taking a point away from Stadio Olimpico last time out.
However, the Nerazzurri’s form at their Bergamo base has been rather less impressive, and just three wins from 11 attempts to date leaves them inside the bottom half of the Serie A standings solely for points taken on home soil.
Ahead of next Thursday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final clash with Fiorentina, then, Gasperini will want to secure a morale-boosting win from the first of four successive games at the Gewiss Stadium.
Following a relatively quiet transfer window, in which they made one major acquisition but also lost an integral squad member, Atalanta can be confident of picking up maximum points, given they have won each of their last four meetings with Cagliari – including a 2-1 triumph in November’s reverse fixture.
Cagliari’s Keita Balde celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on September 19, 2021© Reuters
Seven points from the last 12 possible has changed the mood at Cagliari, who have finally started to move in the right direction since the turn of the year.
Though they recently slipped out of the Coppa Italia, the Sardinian side were able to bounce back a few days later, holding in-form Fiorentina to a 1-1 draw last time out.
Captain, top scorer and all-round attacking talisman Joao Pedro was on the mark once again for Walter Mazzarri’s men, who later conceded a second-half strike to Riccardo Sottil as the spoils were shared.
Having flirted with the drop for most of last season before pulling off a dramatic escape, the Isolani appeared to be heading to Serie B without even a whimper at the end of 2021, but recent events will provide hope for the club’s committed fans.
Even so, Cagliari remain in 18th spot before the weekend’s fixtures, and even though they are now just one point behind 17th-placed Venezia they have also played a game more than their closest relegation rivals.
As they aim for an unlikely away victory on their return from the international period – in which Pedro joined Italy’s training camp after switching allegiance from Brazil – precedent is not in their favour. Indeed, the Rossoblu have won only one of their last 12 Serie A away games, failing to score on eight occasions