Liverpool missed the chance to secure their place in the Champions League knockout stage as they slipped to a shock 2-0 defeat to Atalanta.

Having seen Liverpool beat Atalanta 5-0 in Bergamo on November 3, Jurgen Klopp selected a blend of fringe players and first-team regulars in his starting line-up and paid the price as the Premier League champions failed to muster a shot on goal until the 44th minute.

It got worse for Liverpool after half-time as Gian Piero Gasperini's well-organised Atalanta side scored in quick succession through Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens on Wednesday.

On a night when victory would have qualified Liverpool from Group D with a 100 per cent record, the standings are instead tightly balanced with Klopp's team just two points clear of Ajax and Atalanta, who both have seven.

But it will be the subdued nature of Liverpool's performance that most concerns Reds manager Klopp.

Mohamed Salah, back in the team after a negative coronavirus test, gave the ball away sloppily in the middle of Liverpool's half after three minutes, allowing Ilicic to curl a shot wide from 20 yards.

Robin Gosens burst into the box moments later and forced a strong one-handed save from Alisson with a thunderous shot.

A Salah strike that drifted tamely over the crossbar one minute before half-time was Liverpool's only attempt of the first period – their lowest tally of shots in a first half since January 2017 against Chelsea.

Atalanta continued to press early in the second half, with Papu Gomez testing Alisson with a low drive, and the breakthrough arrived just before the hour mark.

The Italian visitors were given space and time around the Liverpool penalty area before Gomez curled an in-swinging cross to the edge of the six-yard box, where Ilicic slid in to poke a low shot past Alisson into the corner of the net.

The second came four minutes later and was an even better move, Hans Hateboer heading a looping Gomez delivery back across the face of goal where Gosens opened up his body and volleyed past Alisson.

Klopp sent on Andy Robertson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota to try and turn the game, but Atalanta held firm to give their hopes of reaching the knockout stage a huge boost.

 

What does it mean? Klopp's plan B lacks cohesion

Despite the likes of Alisson, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum and Salah all starting for Liverpool, the customary fortress of Anfield felt anything but as Atalanta enjoyed a trouble-free night at the back and an equal share of possession, giving them a platform for victory.

Gomez rips Reds open

Gomez was Atalanta's catalyst here, providing an assist for the opening goal and a second assist four minutes later, Liverpool seemingly unable to contain him.

Origi fails to shine

Divock Origi has struggled for minutes since Jota arrived but, given the chance from the start, he barely made an impact on the game, failing to take a shot on goal before being substituted after Liverpool went behind.

What's next?

Liverpool are away at Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday, while Atalanta entertain Hellas Verona in Serie A later that day.

Gian Piero Gasperini knows Atalanta will not be able to catch anyone by surprise in this season's Champions League as they aim to qualify from a difficult group that includes Liverpool.

The Serie A side marked their debut campaign in Europe's leading club competition in 2019-20 by reaching the quarter-finals, having fought back impressively from a shocking start to qualify for the knockout stages.

Atalanta overcame three straight defeats to progress behind Manchester City, and will once again come up against the reigning Premier League champions this term.

They have been drawn alongside Liverpool, a team Gasperini describes as "extraordinary" following their achievements in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, as well as Ajax and Midtjylland.

The aim once again is for Atalanta to make the last 16, even if opponents know what to expect when they come up against them now.

"Liverpool are an extraordinary team. They won the Champions League two years ago and last season they dominated the Premier League," Gasperini said while appearing at the Festival dello Sport.

"They are one of the best teams in the world and it's going to be very difficult against them, as it was against Manchester City.

"I always said that in this sort of game we need to learn as much experience as we can, despite the need to get results.

"Obviously we hope to do well, as we did against City. Our goal is to come out from Liverpool's games with more knowledge of what it means to face the best teams in the world.

"Our ambition is to pass the group stage and if last season we were a surprise for many people, this year we are not. But to go through against Ajax, and also the Danish team Midtjylland, we will need to do something very important."

Atalanta finished third in the Italian top flight in 2019-20 and have started the new campaign in outstanding form, reeling off three successive victories prior to the international break while scoring a combined total of 13 goals.

In doing so, they became the first team in the history of Serie A to have scored four or more in each of their first three games of a season. The last side to achieve that feat in the top five European leagues was Real Madrid, back in 1987-88.

Leicester City's Timothy Castagne says he decided to leave Atalanta after being left out of the Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

The Belgium international scored on his debut for Leicester in Sunday's 3-0 Premier League win at West Brom.

He joined Brendan Rodgers' side on a five-year deal after impressing during three seasons with Atalanta, with his versatility as a wing-back capable of playing on either flank helping him to stand out.

However, Castagne says part of the reason he chose to move clubs was because he wanted a more regular playing position.

When he was omitted from the starting line-up for the 2-1 loss to PSG, coming on as a substitute with just eight minutes of normal time remaining, he knew the time was right to leave Bergamo.

"I could have renewed the contract," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"The decision came after the game against PSG. The technical situation weighed on me. I'd been tried in the starting XI all week, and the night [of the game] I was left out. Honestly, it was a surprise.

"I needed to play regularly in the same role: once, I was on the right, then on the left, then on the bench. It wasn't exactly the best."

Castagne also suggested he would have preferred a more forthright relationship with Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

"Technically and tactically, he is among the absolute elite, but there wasn't a great relationship on a human level - not because of any particular problem between us," he said.

"He has his own way of doing things. For example, if you're left out, it would be important to have an explanation from the coach. But that's okay: this made me stronger mentally."

Neymar proved his class again during Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League win over Atalanta, Gian Piero Gasperini said.

PSG produced an incredible late comeback to edge Atalanta 2-1 in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Neymar set up Marquinhos' equaliser in the 90th minute to cancel out Mario Pasalic's opener, before Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting struck the winner three minutes later.

Atalanta head coach Gasperini praised Neymar's performance at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.

"He is a player we paid a lot of attention to, because we saw that as soon as he had a little space, he would become very dangerous," he told a news conference.

"Neymar is a great football player, a crack. And he proved it [again] as well, even though I believe we managed to limit him quite often.

"However, he proved he is a top player."

Kylian Mbappe came off the bench for PSG on his return from an ankle injury and set up Choupo-Moting's winner.

Gasperini said the France international's introduction gave the Ligue 1 champions a huge boost.

"Without any doubt his entrance gave PSG some energy they were losing, at that moment," he said.

"It was definitely a fundamental, important entrance, because of his accelerations and the dangers he caused. However, it seemed that the worst was over, that we had overcome it.

"Therefore, the goal we conceded, the equaliser especially, leaves us with great bitterness."

While hurt and disappointed after a Champions League semi-final berth was snatched away at the death, Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini was in an upbeat mood, highlighting the fact that club president Antonio Percassi always targets 40 points to secure Serie A safety each season.

Atalanta have been the Cinderella story of Italian and European football this term, breaking records during their third-place finish in Serie A and memorable run to the Champions League quarter-finals.

Gasperini's Atalanta – competing in their first Champions League last-eight fixture – were moments away from an historic semi-final on Wednesday, however, Ligue 1 powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain completed a stunning turnaround to prevail 2-1 in Lisbon.

Mario Pasalic's first-half strike looked to have settled the midweek contest, until Atalanta were left heartbroken – Marquinhos equalised in the 90th minute before substitute Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting netted the winner in the third minute of stoppage time.

"We are very disappointed, as we felt that we were almost in the semi-final," Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia. "That would've been extraordinary, but it's extraordinary anyway. We want to improve next season – probably not in results, which will be difficult, but as a team.

"We finished third in Serie A for the second year running, but there are teams who were 10-12 points behind us who won't be in that position again. We will never start a season targeting the Scudetto, we aim to build and improve, then see how things go.

"Our objectives are always set as time goes on. In fact, the president always starts out by saying we need 40 points to secure safety in Serie A! We raised the bar, and we're very happy to be back in the Champions League, as that is already a success."

Gasperini, whose Atalanta scored a Serie A-high 98 goals in 2019-20, added: "The biggest regret is that we got so close and thought we really might achieve this extraordinary coup.

"The satisfaction remains that we had a great Champions League campaign, constantly improving against the best teams in Europe. I can only thank the lads for all they've done this season.

"It’s disappointing because we came so close. There are some of the best players in the world, [Kylian] Mbappe and Neymar, who at a certain point really sparked them into life.

"We could've conceded earlier, in a way that might've been better, as conceding in stoppages hurts more. We did all we possibly could, at the end of a very difficult and exhausting run of fixtures, so I can only thank the lads.

"The Champions League is a very special competition and I read a while back Jose Mourinho said it was the competition of details. Details make the difference when games are so balanced and can go one way or the other.

"Despite everything, we reached the 90th minute in the lead. We were certainly well-prepared on set plays, there was that Berat Djimsiti chance, and could've done better on a couple of counter-attacks, but again, these are all details."

Atalanta have a responsibility "not to disappoint" when they face Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, Gian Piero Gasperini says.

The Serie A side are the last Italian team left in the Champions League in what is their first appearance in Europe's top competition.

Gasperini's men have become renowned as one of Italy and Europe's most entertaining teams: they scored 98 times in Serie A this season and have averaged two goals for and two against per Champions League match.

The Bergamo region was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and Gasperini thinks Atalanta owe it to themselves and their supporters at home to stick to their principles in the quarter-final.

"We know very well the anticipation around this match, given the passion and love around Bergamo for Atalanta," he said.

"This year, there is even more motivation given all that has happened. It's a football match but we have to represent our region in the best way possible.

"We arrive in the best mental condition. We've got some very important results after the lockdown.

"We are proof that even a team without a European heritage can do well and achieve important goals through playing, enthusiasm and other things.

"We have a responsibility to ourselves not to disappoint. We want to continue to show that Atalanta can sit at the table of the biggest clubs."

The threat of COVID-19 means the remaining Champions League matches are being held as one-off ties behind closed doors in the neutral city of Lisbon.

Gasperini admits he would prefer to have a two-legged tie, saying Atalanta "historically have done well in the second match".

"We are facing a team we've never faced before and have no direct parameters in terms of meeting their players," he said.

Kylian Mbappe is an injury doubt and Angel Di Maria is suspended, but Gasperini expects his players to have their hands full when it comes to stopping Neymar.

"He is undoubtedly one of the strongest in the world. It's a problem for anyone to face him," he said.

"The best way to defend is to play well. We'll try to stop him with our organisation. We've faced a lot of strong players."

Will Manchester United sign Jadon Sancho or not?

That is the question dominating headlines as United reportedly negotiate with Borussia Dortmund.

This transfer saga is one to watch.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED READY TO END SANCHO PURSUIT

Manchester United are threatening to walk away from a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to reports in England.

Sancho has been tipped to swap Dortmund for United, with Bild claiming a lucrative five-year contract has been agreed as the Bundesliga outfit insist on a €120million (£108m) fee.

But Goal, Sky Sports and The Mirror say United are ready to pursue alternatives of Dortmund do not lower their demands.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian reports Leicester City are trying to sign Francisco Trincao from Barcelona. Leicester have proposed a two-season loan deal with an obligation to buy for £45m (€50m). Trincao is preparing to link up with Barca after the LaLiga giants signed the 20-year-old from Braga in January.

- Premier League champions Liverpool are eyeing a move for Norwich City left-back  Jamal Lewis, says The Mirror. Lewis impressed in 2019-20 as Norwich were relegated and Liverpool are looking to wrap up a £10m deal.

- Gianluca Di Marzio claims Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier is open to joining Serie A side Milan.

- According to Tuttomercatoweb, Juventus are lining up possible replacements for under-fire head coach Maurizio Sarri. Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi, Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini and Luciano Spalletti have all been linked.

-  Aston Villa are aiming to keep star captain and rumoured United target Jack Grealish by offering a new contract, reports The Sun.

- Linked with United , Everton and Napoli, France Bleu Nord claims Arsenal are leading the race for Lille centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes.

- Is Federico Chiesa set for Old Trafford? La Nazione reports United have made a €55m (£49m) offer for the Fiorentina forward, who has also been linked to Inter, Juve and Chelsea .

- Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake is poised to complete his move to Manchester City. Fabrizio Romano reports there is a total agreement and a medical will take place in the next couple of days.

Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini said Josip Ilicic is unlikely to be fit to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Ilicic has starred for high-flying Atalanta this season, scoring 15 Serie A goals and five during the club's memorable run to the Champions League's last eight.

However, Ilicic is a doubt for the August 12 showdown against Ligue 1 holders PSG in Lisbon, having not featured since Atalanta's 2-2 draw with Serie A champions Juventus on July 11.

Speaking after Tuesday's 2-1 win over Parma, Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia: "It's a pity that in the decisive moments of the season, we have to do without key players.

"We had months without Duvan Zapata, now Ilicic is out and the more time passes, the less likely we are to get him back playing for the Champions League. It's going to be really difficult to have him ready.

"The team is doing well to adapt and try to find a different balance, because we have players with very different characteristics, for example Mario Pasalic, Gomez and Malinovskyi.

"Without Duvan Zapata, we had to make changes and find a different way, so we try to make up for these issues with other qualities."

"Ilicic is fundamental for us, it was his season up until March, he was devastating in both Serie A and Europe," he continued.

"It would be like Juventus missing Paulo Dybala or Lazio playing without Ciro Immobile, even Inter without Romelu Lukaku."

 

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini bemoaned Kylian Mbappe's injury as he claimed he hopes to face a fully fit Paris Saint-Germain side when his team take on the Ligue 1 club in the Champions League.

While Atalanta's Serie A title hopes were all but extinguished by a 1-1 draw against Milan at San Siro on Friday, PSG returned to competitive action for the first time since March with a 1-0 triumph over Saint-Etienne in the Coupe de France final. 

Their victory came at a cost, however, with star forward Mbappe going off injured following a robust challenge from Loic Perrin in the 31st minute.

Mbappe later returned to the bench on crutches with one leg in a brace, and seems a major doubt for PSG's Champions League clash with Atalanta in Portugal next month.

However, when informed of Mbappe's injury, Gasperini lamented the fact PSG may be without one of their best players.

"I'm sorry for him, I didn't know," Gasperini told Sky Italia. "Mbappe is a great guy, I hope it's not serious.

"We don't want to win due to the misfortunes of others.

"In fact, if you win against these types of players, your result means even more."

Atalanta's draw leaves them five points shy of Serie A leaders Juventus, with Maurizio Sarri's side able to clinch their ninth successive Scudetto with a win over Sampdoria on Sunday, though a point would be enough if both Inter and Lazio fail to win their matches.

Gasperini, though, decided to take a positive approach.

"This was an important game for the run-in, it's not easy to play Milan these days," he added. 

"We conceded in the first few minutes, then we regained balance and had a good game. I would say it's an excellent point."

Hakan Calhanoglu opened the scoring in the 14th minute, with Ruslan Malinovskiy missing a penalty for Atalanta before Duvan Zapata drew them level.

Gian Piero Gasperini has been given a one-match touchline ban, which will be served when Atalanta face Milan, after he was sent off against Bologna. 

The 62-year-old was dismissed following a heated exchange of words with opposite number Sinisa Mihajlovic in Tuesday's 1-0 win at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. 

Mihajlovic escaped with only a booking and the Italian Football Federation confirmed in an official report that Gasperini's second yellow was issued for "vehemently protesting" the first one. 

He will now be suspended for Friday's trip to fifth-placed Milan, who will be without banned duo Ismael Bennacer and Theo Hernandez. 

Speaking after the Luis Muriel-inspired victory over Bologna, which lifted Atalanta into second, Gasperini attempted to play down his spat with Mihajlovic. 

"Let's move on immediately and talk about the match and Atalanta," he said at his post-match news conference.  

"It was a difficult match. We are always fair, and it wasn't me who had to be sent off." 

Gian Piero Gasperini was proud of Atalanta after a 2-2 draw with Juventus, but felt his side deserved to win.

Atalanta led twice through Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskiy, but Cristiano Ronaldo scored penalties to cancel out both goals, including a 90th-minute equaliser in Turin on Saturday.

While Gasperini was proud of his third-placed team, the Atalanta coach believes they deserved all three points.

"I'm definitely more proud. We played great in the first half and in the second half there was a comeback by Juve," he told a news conference.

"But with our play, we managed to take the lead and play a great game anyway. Of course, we are also upset because we deserved to win.

"But, in football, your performance is not always enough."

With six games left to play in Serie A, Atalanta are third in the table, nine points adrift of Juventus.

Juventus were 2-0 up and coasting at Milan on Tuesday before collapsing in utterly abject fashion.

Three goals in five minutes turned the game on its head before Ante Rebic completed a 4-2 triumph for the Rossoneri.

A seven-point lead with seven games remaining means Maurizio Sarri's men remain on course for the Scudetto.

But up next are fourth-placed Atalanta, themselves nine points from the summit. After their San Siro ordeal, a showdown with one of the most exciting and dangerous teams in European football might be the last thing Juve need.


PERFECT SINCE LOCKDOWN

Saturday's match at the Allianz Stadium brings together two attacking ideologues. Sarri's high-pressing, high-possession approach became so ingrained during his celebrated spell at Napoli that it was given its own nickname.

But Sarrismo has a more than worthy adversary in Gian Piero Gasperini's thrilling, fearless setup.

Atalanta's expansive 3-4-1-2 system, in which central midfielders, wing-backs and forwards freely exchange positions to repeatedly overload opponents in wide areas, has produced goals by the truckload this season.

They head to Turin in prime form, buoyed by a run of nine Serie A wins in succession – the club's longest ever such tally in the top flight.

Along with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid – both potential Champions League final opponents in these heady days for Atalanta – they are one of three teams in Europe's top five leagues to have won all their games since lockdown.

Overall, La Dea have 20 victories this term, which is one shy of the single season record Gasperini set during his first campaign at the helm in 2016-17.


GOALS, GOALS, GOALS

While Gasperini's masterpiece is one of collective ingenuity, there are also some very impressive individual numbers.

If Duvan Zapata manages one more league goal, Atalanta will be the first side to have three players with 15 or more to their name in a Serie A season since Juventus in 1951-52, when Ermes Muccinelli, Giampiero Boniperti and John Hansen accomplished the feat

Luis Muriel and Josip Ilicic have 17 and 15 respectively, with Muriel's feat all the more impressive when considering he typically begins matches on the bench.

Indeed, the Colombia international is only the second player to score double figures in a single season via substitute appearances across the top five leagues, after Paco Alcacer did likewise at Borussia Dortmund in 2018-19.

The dazzling firecracker at the creative centre of this explosive attack is Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez, who is set to make his 300th Serie A appearance against Juventus.

The 32-year-old Argentinian playmaker enjoys free rein as Gasperini's number 10 and has racked up 15 assists this term – the highest single-season figure since Opta started collecting such data in 2004-05.

Gomez has provided at least 10 Serie A assists in each of his four seasons under Gasperini and the former Catania man has 128 goal involvements in Italy's top flight overall (61 goals and 67 assists).


GATECRASHING EUROPE'S ELITE

A rampaging last-16 win over Valencia booked Atalanta's place in the Champions League quarter-finals, where they will take on Paris Saint-Germain when Europe's elite club competition lands in Lisbon for its concluding mini-tournament next month.

Their performances truly are among the very best on the continent

Only Bayern (100) and Manchester City (86) have scored more league goals than Atalanta's 85 in 2019-20.

That amounts to an average of 2.74 per game, again the third best in Europe. Dominant Bundesliga winners Bayern edged up to 2.94 per game, while PSG averaged 2.78 across the truncated Ligue 1 season.

Along with City and Barcelona, Atalanta have scored five or more goals in five separate matches. That can only be bettered in the Bundesliga, where Bayern and Dortmund each did it six times.

Things are also looking pleasingly tight at the back. In 2020, La Dea have five Serie A clean sheets, edged in the calendar year so far by Juventus and Milan with six apiece.

Juve certainly should not bank on adding to that number when they host Gasperini's great entertainers. If Atalanta manage to storm Turin, it will be 10 wins in a row and the gap will be six points with six games to play.

They can't... can they?

Gian Piero Gasperini played down Atalanta's chances of winning the Serie A title ahead of defending champions Juventus following their ninth consecutive league victory.

Atalanta continued their red-hot form with a 2-0 win at home to lowly Sampdoria thanks to Rafael Toloi and Luis Muriel on Wednesday.

Gasperini's Atalanta have not lost in Serie A since January and are in the midst of a 13-game unbeaten streak across all competitions.

Only two points adrift of second-placed Lazio through 31 matches, Atalanta could close to within six points of Juve with six games remaining if they beat the league leaders on Saturday.

However, Atalanta head coach Gasperini dismissed the Scudetto talk post-match.

"We can't let that thought into our heads, because Juve have the Scudetto in their hands," Gasperini, whose Atalanta are also already through to the Champions League quarter-finals, told Sky Sport Italia.

"Even yesterday [Tuesday], despite their 4-2 defeat with Milan, they still showed they are the strongest team. We are trying to challenge only ourselves, to secure a Champions League place, try to beat our points record and then eventually we'll see if we can finish ahead of Lazio or Inter.

"We knew Samp would be difficult this evening, as they are in good shape physically, defend very well and are dangerous on the counter-attack.

"We did so well, because this is a risky type of match, but we played with intensity and proved we have many different ways of winning games. That is valuable."

Gian Piero Gasperini joked that Atalanta do not need a coach after watching the team's stunning Serie A comeback against Lazio from the stands.

Atalanta head coach Gasperini served a touchline ban as the Bergamo high flyers rallied past title hopefuls Lazio 3-2 on Wednesday.

Lazio – looking to claw back within a point of leaders Juventus – raced out to a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes courtesy of a Marten de Roon own goal and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's wonderful 25-yard effort.

But Atalanta stormed back after Robin Gosens reduced the deficit prior to half-time, snapping Lazio's 21-match unbeaten streak in the league thanks to Ruslan Malinovskiy's memorable equaliser and Jose Luis Palomino's 80th-minute winner.

Gasperini lauded fourth-placed Atalanta, who moved within four points of Inter after taking their tally to a Serie A-high 77 goals through just 27 matches.

"It's no fun in the stands, as you can't intervene even on the tiny things like advising your players," Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia.

"It's a struggle, but it was also immensely satisfying, as I got the feeling this team doesn't need a coach anymore! They know exactly what to do and all it takes is a gesture or a word to get them going.

"This Atalanta side has this maturity and confidence in its football that it never wavers, even in the most difficult of circumstances like this evening.

"Fighting back from 2-0 against a team like Lazio, always having the confidence that we'd turn it around, not many squads can say they feel like that."

Atalanta, who also scored a season-high 77 league goals last season, travel to Udinese on Sunday.

Massimo Carrera believes Atalanta can win the Serie A title next season with two or three "quality signings" as he hailed Gian Piero Gasperini's team.

Atalanta have become the great entertainers of Italian and European football under head coach Gasperini, scoring a Serie A-high 70 goals through 25 matches before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

No Serie A team scored more goals last season as Atalanta finished third to qualify for the Champions League for the first time – the Bergamo-based side reached the quarter-finals in Europe prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Led by Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic, Atalanta are fourth in the standings and occupy the final Champions League spot as they prepare to resume their 2019-20 Serie A season against Sassuolo on Sunday.

Asked if Atalanta can challenge for the Scudetto next season, former defender Carrera – who captained the club before leaving for Napoli in 2003 – told Stats Perform News: "Why not, I think that Atalanta might win the Scudetto with two or three more quality purchases."

"I played for Atalanta for seven years and still today I live in Bergamo," the AEK Athens head coach added.

"Atalanta are a serious and competent club that has built a great team year after year, enhancing young talents from their youth sector. 

"Gasperini is doing a great job, they play a good football made of intensity and quality in all departments.  It is no longer a surprise but a reality."

Carrera joined Atalanta from Juventus in 1996, after winning Serie A, Champions League, UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana titles in Turin.

The 56-year-old also had his first taste of coaching, albeit briefly, at Juve in 2012 after head coach Antonio Conte was handed a 10-month ban – later reduced to four months – for failing to report match-fixing.

Carrera, who played alongside Conte in Turin before reuniting with his former team-mate as technical director in 2011, stepped into the caretaker role and claimed the Supercoppa Italiana against Napoli.

Fast forward to 2020 and Juve – a point clear of Lazio atop the table – are preparing for Wednesday's Coppa Italia final against Napoli in Rome, before travelling to Bologna on June 22.

Juve also lost 1-0 to Lyon in the opening leg of their Champions League last-16 tie prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Cristiano Ronaldo has played a key role for Juve since arriving from Real Madrid in 2018, scoring 53 goals in 76 games for the Serie A champions.

"Ronaldo with his qualities is one of Juventus' weapons thanks to his determination, professionalism and desire to win," Carrera, who coached Spartak Moscow to the 2016-17 Russian Premier League title, said. "And I'm sure that he could help Juventus to become champions again."

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