Two sides short of form in recent weeks contest three Serie A points on Saturday afternoon, as ailing Atalanta BC visit relegation-haunted Venezia.
The teams convene at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo for the first time in the top flight since March 2002, with both searching for an end to worrying winless streaks.
Last week, a fourth defeat in five games continued Atalanta’s descent towards mid-table mediocrity, and their whole season appears to be coming apart at the seams.
Going down 2-1 to a vibrant Verona side was certainly not disastrous in isolation, but another loss on home soil saw the Bergamaschi slip further off the pace in the race for European qualification, and they now sit eighth in the Serie A standings – five points adrift of Lazio, who occupy sixth place.
In all, La Dea have suffered nine defeats in the league this season, and the last time they recorded more in a single campaign was four years ago, when they ultimately finished seventh.
That was a palatable result at a time when Gian Piero Gasperini was still embedding his principles at the Lombardy club, but recent successes have raised the bar for the current squad.
Therefore, it would be unacceptable for Atalanta to lose a fourth consecutive Serie A game for the first time since Gasperini’s appointment in 2016, which raises the stakes for their trip to Veneto on Saturday.
Their best chance of accessing Europe again had recently boiled down to winning this year’s Europa League, but losing out to Leipzig in the quarter-finals earlier this month means they must get back on track with a win at the Penzo.
Since the beginning of February, Atalanta have lost three of their four away fixtures in Serie A – as many as in their previous 56 matches on the road – but they have generally performed much better outside of Bergamo this term, and will face opponents in desperate disarray.