Atalanta has surprisingly done a great job so far this season. Nobody would have bet money on La Dea as a 10th-place team after last year's difficult season. New manager Edy Reja seems to have found the solution to most of the problems Atalanta had.
In effect Atalanta's results have been improving since Reja took Stefano Colantuono's place on the Nerazzurri's bench, and the team seems to be more balanced than before, allowing few opportunities to their opponents. However, Atalanta still struggles to score with consistency. As a proof of the club's improvements, Atalanta has already defeated competitive teams like Lazio and Sampdoria this season, and it looks strongly determined to do better than this.
Reja has undoubtedly been a fan of 4-3-3 since his experience at Napoli, but he's especially a fan of offensive football and risky lineups. In effect, in his favorite lineup there are a lot of hyper-offensive players like Alejandro Gomez, Maxi Moralez and either Mauricio Pinilla or German Denis. But Reja has been able to balance the formation thanks to a high-energy midfield and two defensive-minded fullbacks.
Here's Atalanta projected lineup for Saturday's match against Milan.
Going more into details, Jasmin Kurtic and either Alberto Grassi or Carlos Carmona are expected to play as box-to-box midfielders and run up and down the field from the first minute of the game, while Marten de Roon (or Luca Cigarini when he's fit) is supposed to be the playmaker of the team, despite not having a lot of freedom to roam across the field. Also, the straight line of four defenders should provide more coverage in order to disrupt the other team maneuver and then counterattack thanks to quick players like Moralez or Gomez.
Roster and Roles
Goalkeepers: Marco Sportiello, Davide Bassi, Boris Radunovic.
Defenders: Gianpaolo Bellini, Nicolò Cherubin, Davide Brivio, Boukary Dramé, Andrea Masiello, Gabirel Paletta, Guglielmo Stendardo, Emanuele Suagher, Rafael Toloi, Andrea Conti, Anton Kresic.
Midfielders: Carlos Emilio Carmona, Luca Cigarini, Marco D'Alessandro, Marten De Roon, Marcelo Estigarribia, Alberto Grassi, Jasmin Kurtic, Giulio Migliaccio, Maximiliano Moralez, Cristian Raimondi, Fabio Castellano, Tiziano Tulissi.
Forwards: Marcos De Paula, German Denis, Alejandro Gomez, Mauricio Pinilla, Gaetano Monachello.
The roster clearly lacks in alternatives to Cigarini and De Roon as playmakers, especially because De Roon doesn't naturally play in that position. Also, fullbacks are their weakest positions: Davide Zappacosta's transfer to Torino left a big hole in the right back position and Andrea Masiello is definitely not the right player to replace him there.
As said before, Reja loves offensive football and that's why his teams usually have a lot of weak spots that are easy to find. Atalanta's 4-3-3 should leave Milan midfielders free to play the ball in front of the defense so the Rossoneri are likely to have the opportunity to manage the pace of the match and keep the ball possession. For that reason, Milan's midfield might find some space between the lines and be the hosts' most powerful threat against Atalanta's defenders.
4-3-3 against 4-3-3: it will be interesting to see how Milan will take advantage of Atalanta's weaknesses.
Milans's wingers will have some problems Sunday, since Atalanta's fullbacks will stick to their position for most of the match, but they could find a solution to that problem. In effect, if Mattia De Sciglio and Luca Antonelli can escape from Moralez and Gomez's coverage—that shouldn't be tight, to be honest—they could help their teammates escape from their defenders and play efficiently.
It won't be an easy game for Milan, since Atalanta is a well-organized team with a lot of quality players, but the Rossoneri should definitely earn the three points at the end of the match if they don't allow an easy goal to Atalanta.