Gian Piero Gasperini was unsure if he will still be at Atalanta next season because "things have changed a bit" at the club. 

Atalanta were fifth in Serie A at the end of March, but a run of two wins in seven has seen them slip to seventh, 10 points adrift of the top four.

That would only be enough for qualification to the Europa Conference League play-off round, which would be a disappointment after successive seasons in the Champions League. 

Atalanta were acquired by a group of investors based in the United States in February, and Gasperini refused to confirm he would still be in position next season. 

"Regardless of myself or the players, I always hope Atalanta will do better – even more so than we have done in recent years. It's already been a success to be known all over the world," Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia after Sunday's 3-1 win at Spezia.

"I signed a contract renewal in November, but it's clear that things have changed a bit and it will depend on what the club decides. 

"We haven't talked about it. I'm so grateful to Atalanta that I'll be happy with any solution. If we go forward like this, I'll continue with enthusiasm." 

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini blasted the "absolute confusion" of the refereeing performance in his side's Europa League quarter-final exit to RB Leipzig on Thursday.

La Dea had high hopes following their draw in the first leg, but a Christopher Nkunku brace handed Leipzig a 2-0 win instead, with the German side going through 3-1 on aggregate.

With Atlanta down 1-0 on Thursday, however, Antonio Mateu Lahoz waved away what appeared to be a handball from Leipzig's Dani Olmo and also waved away the consequent call for a VAR review.

Nkunku then punished Atalanta for a second time in transition, while Gasperini was left to bemoan the lack of consistency in refereeing interpretation and decision-making with the tie in the balance.

"The strange thing is that he [Mateu Lahoz] gave a punishment that for me was a less obvious foul than it was a penalty. There is absolute confusion on handballs," he said. "The referee himself, in 30 seconds, evaluates the first instance more serious than the second which is much clearer.

"Well, it's not like you can cancel it [from context]. We had a good match, we conceded something, as is normal in these matches. There are goal situations on both sides in Europe. Everyone has an important attacking quality. It wasn't the defence that penalised us."

According to the 64-year-old, the penalty reinforced Atalanta's need to chase the result, which played into the fast, dynamic and ultimately reactive RB Leipzig's hands.

"It is always like this," he said. "They have pace and speed, they play very tightly and then go on the counter-attack.

"Sometimes they do them very well, we attacked for a very long time and unfortunately in recent weeks we have had difficulty in finding the final pass, the decisive shot. Even if for long stretches it was an excellent match for Atalanta."

Champions League qualification is likely unattainable now for La Dea, who sit 12 points off fourth-placed Juventus in Serie A, but are also four points behind Lazio in the Conference League playoff spot. They face Hellas Verona on Monday.

RB Leipzig and Atalanta shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday to set up a winner-takes-all decider in Bergamo.

Domenico Tedesco's Bundesliga side made it 10 games unbeaten across all competitions with a 4-1 thumping of Borussia Dortmund on Saturday but found themselves behind at the Red Bull Arena when Luis Muriel struck after 17 minutes.

Gian Piero Gasperini's visitors thought they had escaped lightly when Andre Silva saw his penalty saved by Juan Musso after the break, but Davide Zappacosta miscued into his own goal to restore parity.

Neither team could find a late winner, with Teun Koopmeiners and Dominik Szoboszlai denied by the woodwork, which leaves it all to play for in the return leg next Thursday.

Christopher Nkunku skewed a half-chance wide from Benjamin Henrichs' mishit strike in an otherwise uneventful opening to the contest.

But Muriel sparked the tie into life when he ghosted inside from the left flank before expertly whipping into the top-right corner for his fourth goal in European competition this season, his best tally.

Muriel almost repeated the trick shortly after but his left-footed drive narrowly evaded the far corner, before the woodwork denied Silva and Mario Pasalic at either end.

Peter Gulacsi pushed away a teasing Muriel curler from range after the interval, before Merih Demiral needlessly felled Nkunku inside the area.

Musso denied Silva's spot-kick before an excellent reflex save thwarted Willi Orban on the rebound, but Leipzig equalised moments later when Zappacosta inadvertently turned Angelino's cross into his own net.

Gulacsi then tipped a low Koopmeiners effort onto the post and Szoboszlai headed onto the crossbar, while Lukas Klostermann saw a late strike denied on the line following a goalmouth scramble from Emil Forsberg's corner as neither side could be separated.

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini has hailed Ukraine midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi's contributions to the club in recent weeks, amid the ongoing crisis unfolding back in the latter's home country.

The Ukraine international has been a key performer for the Serie A side so far this term, but has found himself thrust into the spotlight for different reasons following Russia's invasion of his home country.

Malinovskyi netted in last week's Europa League last-16 clash with Bayer Leverkusen, in which La Dea prevailed 3-2, and is expected to figure in Thursday's reverse encounter in Germany.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Gasperini offered praise for how the midfielder has responded, including a poignant gesture where he kissed a black armband in the first leg in Bergamo after scoring.

"To tell the truth, Ruslan has had a really important season, and this one has been a bit more troubled," the head coach told his pre-match news conference.

"Now he has moments in which he is in the best situation, he becomes decisive. In addition, we realise the emotional moment he is going through.

"When he manages to clean up his game, with the shot that he has, it will become important. He is a player that we have adapted to that role, he often becomes decisive.

"We hope that in the end, he is as good as possible, because we need him."

Elsewhere, Gasperini revealed that Duvan Zapata is nearing a comeback from injury, with the coach adding that he hopes to have the Colombia star back on hand as early as next month.

"He is recovering well, we hope his return is close," he added. "We will see in April, we hope it is plausible. He will have to get to match sharpness, but he is training well individually and in the gym."

Atalanta face Leverkusen on Thursday, before they wrap up their March commitments with a trip to Bologna in Serie A before the international break brings a halt to club football.

Manchester City have been linked with Erling Haaland.

As Sergio Aguero appears headed for an exit, Pep Guardiola wants to bolster his attack.

But Danny Ings has reportedly emerged as an alternative to the expensive and in-demand Haaland.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TARGET INGS

Manchester City are considering a move for Southampton star Danny Ings, according to Sky Sports.

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season and no closer to extending his deal in Manchester.

Pep Guardiola's City are reportedly among the admirers of Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Juventus.

With Haaland set to command a huge fee, City are eyeing former Liverpool forward Ings as a cheaper alternative.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport report Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo is on the brink of being sacked. Juve are out of the Champions League and 10 points off the pace following their shock loss to Benevento. Former boss Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with a return, while La Repubblica claims Atalanta's Gian Piero Gasperini, Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi and Luciano Spalletti are on a three-man shortlist.

- Former Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is Roma's number one option should they sack head coach Paulo Fonseca, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Fonseca – under pressure in the Italian capital – has also been linked with Napoli, alongside Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric. Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso has been linked with Fiorentina, Torino and Bologna.

Neymar re-signing with Ligue 1 holders PSG is "just a matter of time", according to Fabrizio Romano.

Aaron Ramsey is interested in a move to Premier League champions Liverpool, according to Calciomercato. The Juventus midfielder, who left Arsenal for Turin in 2019, is seen as a possible replacement for rumoured Barca target Georginio Wijnaldum at Anfield.

- The Daily Express reports Arsenal are eyeing Barcelona misfit Philippe Coutinho. However, a move will depend on whether Arsenal sign loanee Martin Odegaard permanently from Madrid.

Xabi Alonso is set to become the new head coach of Borussia Monchengladbach next season, replacing Dortmund-bound Marco Rose. Romano, however, insists no contract has been signed as the former Bayern Munich star remains in charge of Real Sociedad's B team.

Gennaro Gattuso came out in bullish fashion when asked about his Napoli future after his team were defeated 3-1 by Atalanta in their Coppa Italia semi-final.

Duvan Zapata was integral as Atalanta claimed a place in the Coppa final for the second time in three seasons, with the striker scoring a thunderous opener before teeing up Matteo Pessina in a blistering first-half display from Gian Piero Gasperini's side.

Hirving Lozano's goal had given Napoli a glimmer of hope early in the second half, but Zapata and Pessina combined again to seal Atalanta's progression into a final against Juventus with a 3-1 aggregate success.

With Napoli sitting in sixth in Serie A – having lost seven games – reports have emerged over recent weeks claiming Gattuso, who joined last season, is fighting to save his job.

Napoli face Juve in their next outing on Saturday and, asked if that match will prove make or break for his tenure, Gattuso insisted it was the club's hierarchy who must answer that question.

"I don't know, you have to ask the club," he said. "The captain of the ship is me, when things go badly, they are at the expense of the captain.

"I can't think of this as the penultimate or last resort, I have to work and I have to be able to trust.

"I'm a coach, it's like that. I won't be the first, nor the last, but I have the duty to try until the end."

Without first-choice centre-backs Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli allowed 19 attempts at their goal, with Atalanta landing seven on target.

Atalanta were worthy winners, and Gasperini had only one regret.

"It's a great satisfaction," he said. "We dedicate it to the fans.

"The regret is not living these moments with them, but reaching the final is a sign of continuity. This team are at the top. 

"We will think about the final later. For us it's already a great success. Then we will play against an extraordinary side like Juventus.

"Now we have many important games, we will host Real Madrid [in the Champions League]. That will be an event for Bergamo."

Alejandro Gomez's seven-year association with Atalanta is over after their former captain completed a move to Sevilla.

Gomez, 32, joined Atalanta from Metalist Kharkiv in 2014 and was a key factor in the club's rise from mid-table also-rans to regular top-four challengers.

He became captain in 2017 after a personal-best haul of 16 Serie A goals in 2016-17 and then skippered the club to their highest-ever top-flight finish of third in 2018-19.

They repeated the feat in 2019-20 and Gomez, whose 16 assists was the most by any player in a single Serie A season this century, was named the league's best midfielder in the end-of-season awards.

But Gomez and coach Gian Piero Gasperini reportedly fell out earlier this season, with Italian media claiming the player had refused to carry out the manager's orders in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Midtjylland.

Speculation was rife throughout December about whether the pair would be able to repair their relationship or if Gomez was on his way out, with Inter initially thought to be his likeliest of options.

But more recently Italian publications suggested Atalanta were keen to offload him to a foreign team, and Sevilla – whom Gomez had previously suggested were his favourite Spanish team – made their move.

The talented attacker, who can play on the left flank or behind the striker, signed a contract until June 2024 on Tuesday.

He is an Argentina team-mate of current Sevilla players Lucas Ocampos and Marcos Acuna, and was given his Albiceleste bow by the club's former coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Sevilla will hope Gomez can serve them as effectively he did Atalanta in the main – from the start of 2018-19 until December 16, when he last featured in Serie A for the Bergamo side, no player across Europe's big five leagues played more key passes than his 233.

Similarly, his 29 assists across the same period was bettered by only Thomas Muller (36), Lionel Messi (34) and Jadon Sancho (33). There were also only five players to create more Opta-defined "big chances" than his 40 in that time.

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