Hot Take: Atalanta will end Juventus’ Serie A dominance

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They’ve stolen the hearts of their city and every neutral with their fantastic football in recent years.

But now Atalanta are ready to take the next step. This is the season they make the leap from entertainers to champions.

A team who have finished no higher than third in the top tier and have just one major honour (no disrespect to their six Serie B titles) in their history are about to end Juventus’ decade of dominance.

While they may not have any great historical pedigree (famed mostly for yo-yoing between the divisions and their incredibly prolific youth academy), that shouldn’t distract from how special this current side is.

If a traditional powerhouse like Lombardy rivals Inter or Milan boasted the talent they do, this wouldn’t be a lukewarm take let alone a hot one – but La Dea are still not treated with the respect they’ve earned.

With an average starting XI age of 27 years and 299 days last year, logic would suggest that this is a side who are approaching their prime at the perfect time.

And while they may be hitting their peak under Gian Piero Gasperini, that is at odds with the team everyone in Italy is out to beat.

Juventus don’t carry that same aura of invincibility going into this season that they have for so much of the last decade.

The club are attempting to refresh an ageing squad but there are cracks – the as yet fruitless search for a striker, a defence that conceded 43 goals last season and a midfield missing creative spark.

All of those are issues that a rookie coach in Andrea Pirlo is being trusted to solve – a man who didn’t even have the proper licence when hired and who must have wowed at his under-23 job interview even more than Mike Ross did in the Suits pilot.

It could even be Inter who pose the biggest threat to Atalanta but their situation is a little volatile and another Antonio Conte implosion wouldn’t be a shock.

Both those clubs will then have to deal with an Orobici side who are fearless in their approach and boast a mouthwatering array of talent.

In captain Alejandro Gómez, they have a genius. Only one man in Europe has reached double figures for assists in each of the past four seasons. No prizes for guessing that it’s Papu.

His 16 last season are a top flight record since Opta started collecting data.

The skipper’s supporting cast are so popular and offer so many different things that make each of them a justifiable fan favourite.

There’s the deadly Duvan Zapata, Josip Iličić who is ageing better than the province’s finest wine, Luis Muriel (Serie A’s most prolific ever super sub), Ruslan Malinovskyi of the rocket shot, social media superstar Marten De Roon, the criminally underrated Remo Freuler, Germany’s newest hero Robin Gosens … the list goes on.

They’ve kept all of their key men (only Timothy Castagne left this summer) and supplemented them with serious quality too: making Mario Pašalić’s move permanent, signing the exciting Aleksei Miranchuk and bringing in Cristian Romero and Cristiano Piccini on loan.

In an open division, this star-studded squad are as good as the best of them. They can pull this off – becoming only the 14th different side to be crowned champions.

If you don’t agree, don’t worry. You are in very good company.

We can’t set ourselves goals like fighting for the Scudetto. Those objectives are a journalistic fantasy.

GIAN PIERO GASPERINI ON A TITLE CHALLENGE

But in Bergamo, fantasy is ready to turn to reality.


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