Atalanta, AC Milan, and Lazio managed to make Italy proud in Europe, although Juventus, Roma, and Napoli did not.
La Dea, the Rossoneri, and the Biancocelesti all came out on top in their respective Europa League fixtures. Atalanta were making their return to Europe after nearly three decades thanks to an impressive performance under Gian Piero Gasperini’s tenure that saw them finish in fourth spot, and despite not featuring in their own stadium, they had no problems taking care of business against Everton. Many had expected the English side to cruise to victory, especially as they had brought back the highly experienced Wayne Rooney, who’s no stranger to featuring in European competition. After all, he’s not the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and the English national football team by accident, and has already tasted Champions League and Europa League glory with the Red Devils.
Then again, Atalanta are used to being underestimated by both those who don’t follow Serie A and those who do regularly tune into calcio, and that seems to suit them just fine. Everton had never shipped three inside the first 45 before in European competition. That is, until they met La Dea. By the time things settled down, they were 3-0 down and Atalanta certainly could have scored more had they not taken their foot off the gas.
AC Milan also continues to shine in the Europa League…but is it too early to consider them as favorites?
Not to be outdone, AC Milan rebounded from their heavy 4-1 defeat to Lazio at the weekend by thrashing Austria Wien 5-1. Andre Silva wrote his name into the history books as the first player since Kaka to net a hat-trick for Milan in European competition, which leaves them sitting quite comfortably on top of their quartet. So far, it’s been smooth sailing for the Rossoneri in this competition, but then again, they’ve spent a pretty penny to bolster their squad. Is it too early to consider them as favorites? Well, they’re making their debut, and considering they have spent over €190 million to bring in quite a bunch of new faces, the club’s new owners didn’t splash that kind of cash just to be knocked out in the round of 32…or the round of 16 for that matter.
Milan are back in European competition for the first time since the 2013/2014 season. They can certainly make the Europa League their domain and they certainly have the squad to dominate this competition. A decade ago, they may have turned up their noses at European club football’s second-tier club competition, but if Manchester United, arguably one of the biggest and most esteemed clubs in the world could take it seriously and win it, then certainly, anyone can. Plus, it’s the only title that Milan haven’t won just yet and adding it to one’s trophy cabinet doesn’t just get an automatic ticket to the Champions League – regardless of wherever the Rossoneri finish in the table – it also adds some nice cash to one’s coffers.
Lazio also doing their part to improve Italy’s standing in Europe
Italy generally haven’t taken the Europa League as seriously, and that has cost them in terms of coefficient points, some critics have argued. At least, until now, it seems. Lazio put in a great shift to fight back to secure a 3-2 win over Vitesse on matchday one to make sure that all three of Serie A’s representatives went three for three. The Biancocelesti clearly want to go as far in this competition as possible, and why not? Winning the Scudetto is well out of their reach, but they also want to make a push for a top four spot as well since Italy will have four spots available for the Champions League for next season.
So whereas Juventus, Napoli, and Roma fumbled on matchday one, Atalanta, Milan, and Lazio restored some major pride for Serie A in a rather turbulent week for Italian sides across Europe. It will be definitely very interesting to see what transpires for these six sides on matchday two in both the Champions League and the Europa League, but things are looking on the up and up for half of Italy’s six representatives at least.
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