Cristiano Ronaldo fired in a late winner to secure Manchester United's win over Atalanta on Matchday Three, and Kevin Hatchard believes he'll make his mark again in Bergamo.
"Five of Atalanta's last six competitive games have featured four goals or more, and their games against top sides tend to be attack-minded slugfests."
Atalanta v Manchester United
Tuesday 02 November, 20:00
Live on BT Sport
Miracle man Gasperini still working his magic
If you had only recently started following football, you would be forgiven for thinking that Atalanta were an established powerhouse in Italian football. They are in the Champions League group stage, only goal difference currently separates them from the top four in Serie A, and their last five Serie A seasons have seen them finish 4th, 7th, 3rd, 3rd and 3rd. Before coach Gian Piero Gasperini took the Bergamo-based club into European football for the first time in his stewardship, Atalanta had been out of European football for 26 years.
Gasperini has raised the bar in terms of expectations, and he has been backed by smart recruitment and excellent youth development. The Zingonia academy, run by the excellent Stefano Bonacorso, has consistently produced and developed exciting young talent.
However, there is still a naivete about Atalanta, and they have perhaps understandably found it difficult to make the final step to winning trophies. They lost Coppa Italia finals in 2019 and 2021, and suffered a heart-breaking Champions League knockout defeat against PSG in August 2020, a game that saw a 1-0 lead become a 2-1 defeat in the dying embers of the contest.
That fragility was on show in the collapse at Old Trafford, and this term they have conceded twice against Inter, twice against Villarreal, twice against Lazio and three times against Milan. Gasperini admits his team is having to chase in too many games, and doesn't quite have the precision required to win consistently.
Atalanta are still without several key players. Wing-backs Robin Gosens and Hans Hateboer are expected to miss out, as are defenders Rafael Toloi and Berat Djimsiti and young attacking midfielder Matteo Pessina.
Late fireworks have papered over the cracks
It's been a strange Champions League campaign so far for Manchester United, a rollercoaster that has been a microcosm of their general inconsistency. A clumsy and unnecessary defeat at Young Boys was followed by a 2-1 home win over Villarreal in which the Spanish side wasted several good chances before Cristiano Ronaldo struck a late winner. Against Atalanta on Matchday Three, United went 2-0 down at Old Trafford before roaring back to win 3-2, with the talismanic Ronaldo again turning the tide with a last-gasp strike.
Whatever your views on this United side and the suitability of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager, at no stage have the Red Devils looked like a side that is capable of winning the competition. There are too many questions, too many head-scratching performances and too many players ill at ease. United are sixth in the Champions League Winner market at 20.019/1, but under their current coach they might as well be 200.0199/1.
While Saturday's 3-0 win at Tottenham was a fine riposte to the 5-0 shredding United suffered at home to Liverpool, it was against limited opposition that had been placed in a tactical straitjacket by under-fire manager Nuno. It remains to be seen whether Solskjaer will retain the 5-3-2 he deployed in North London.
Paul Pogba is suspended domestically but is available for this game, while Edinson Cavani is expected to be fit despite picking up a late strain against Spurs. Raphael Varane made his comeback from a groin injury at Tottenham, and felt no adverse reaction.
Market is understandably tight
United are the slight favourites here in the Match Odds market at 2.56/4, with Atalanta the outsiders at home at 2.829/5. Atalanta are certainly struggling to string wins together at the moment, and injuries in defence haven't helped their cause, while United's win over Tottenham arguably told us more about Spurs than it did about them.
I'll be looking elsewhere for my selections, but if I had to back a winner, I'd back United with a bit of insurance by using the Draw No Bet market at 1.8910/11. Atalanta have won just one of their last seven home games in Serie A, and their 1-0 home success against Young Boys on Matchday Two was far from convincing.
Goals the route to profit
These sides shared out five goals in the reverse fixture, and I anticipate another entertaining game, given Atalanta's swashbuckling approach and their defensive deficiencies. The market agrees, so it's hard to get an attractive price here, but we can back Over 3.0 Goals at 1.84/5 on the Goal Lines market. If there are more than three goals in the game, we get a winner. If there are exactly three goals, our stake is returned. There have been four goals or more in five of Atalanta's last six competitive outings.
Ronaldo to strike again?
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more Champions League goals than anyone in the competition's history, with the number now standing at 135. He can be backed at 2.166/5 here on the Exchange to score at any time, and given that he has scored in all three group games so far, that seems a more than fair price.
Not only did Ronaldo bag the late winner against Atalanta a fortnight ago, but he also scored three goals in four Serie A meetings with them as a Juventus player.
You could use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder to combine a Ronaldo goal with an Over 2.5 Goals bet at 2.427/5.
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