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Why Atalanta are the perfect opponents for Liverpool ahead of City clash

In recent years, Liverpool have been faced against some of the most exciting attacking enterprises in European football.

Whether it has been Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain or RB Salzburg, the Reds have been blessed with some memorable continental classics against an imposing team who base their expansive football from the front as opposed to the back.

Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) speaks with Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) and Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (L) as they prepare to come on as substitutes during the UEFA Champions league Group D football match between Liverpool and Midtjylland at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 27, 2020. (Photo by PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

This is something supporters are yet to see from Liverpool’s 2020/21 Champions League campaign, with Jurgen Klopp’s side so far beating Ajax 1-0 before grinding out a similar hard-fought 2-0 win against FC Midtjylland the following week.

However, amidst the guts and guile Liverpool have had to showcase to maintain a 100 per cent start in Europe, a trip to Atalanta is another proposition entirely.

Despite Italian teams notoriously understood to be defensive, resolute, compact and streetwise, Gian Piero Gasperini’s impressive attacking side completely distance themselves from such stereotypes and have incorporated a model of football that is built around an explosion of goals.

Last season, Atalanta clocked up an eye-watering 115 goals across both Seria A and the Champions League while they are currently averaging three goals so far this campaign.

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Remarkably, their total of 98 Serie A goals last season was only bettered by Manchester City (102) and Bayern Munich (100) across Europe’s top-five leagues.

It is such an attacking onus that makes Atalanta the perfect opponent for Liverpool to face before their title bout with City next weekend.

Atalanta’s Swiss midfielder Remo Freuler (2ndR) celebrates with teammates Atalanta’s Dutch defender Hans Hateboer (2ndL) after scoring during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Valencia on February 19, 2020 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Both teams have a meticulous focus on their ability to generate shots more frequently than their opponents which is why both teams unsurprisingly are the top two attacking enterprises in that particular field.

Also, like City, Atalanta aren’t solely reliant on one goalscorer to regularly deliver similarly to Robert Lewandowski who scored a gargantuan 55 goals for Bayern last season.

In-fact, the Champions League quarter-finalists had three players (Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic) all clock up at least 18 goals in all competitions while Papu Gomez registered as many as 16 assists.

This season, they already have 17 goals in just six Serie A matches while conceding 13. It is an almost identical return to Liverpool who have also scored 17 league goals this season but have shipped 15 goals in the Premier League – only West Brom have conceded more.

Off the early evidence of what we have seen this season, this match looks poised to be an end-to-end battle that will certainly oppose the greatest attacking threat Liverpool’s make-shift defence have had to face since the injury sustained to Virgil van Dijk last month.

With Manchester City to follow, how Liverpool cope with such attacking fluidity in midweek could be the perfect opportunity for Klopp to draw out a game plan to overcome Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

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