Monday, September 28, 2020

Gasperini upbeat despite Atalanta heartbreak: Our president targets Serie A safety every year

SoccerNews in Serie A 12 Aug 2020

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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.”

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