Five-Goal Atalanta Crush Cagliari, Juve Vs Napoli Under Coronavirus Cloud

Atalanta’s players acknowledge the public at the end of the Italian Serie A football match Atalanta vs Cagliari on October 4, 2020 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo.
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Papu Gomez extended his scoring streak as Atalanta crushed Cagliari 5-2 for a third consecutive win this season, but champions Juventus’s clash against Napoli later Sunday remains in doubt after coronavirus cases at both clubs.

Atalanta struck hard in their first home game this season in Bergamo, bringing their tally to 13 goals in three games played, to sit top of the Serie A table.

Atalanta’s Albanian defender Berat Djimsiti (L) and Cagliari’s Argentine forward Giovanni Simeone go for a header during the Italian Serie A football match Atalanta vs Cagliari on October 4, 2020 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

“This team is going through an excellent period,” said coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

“They did not suffer much, the goalkeeper was not very busy. The score could have been much bigger.

“We’ve given the maximum in three games, now there is the (international) break that interrupts this momentum.

“After that we will immediately have Napoli and then the Champions League, we have to pick up where we left off.”

 

Atalanta’s Dutch forward Sam Lammers (2ndL) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Atalanta vs Cagliari on October 4, 2020 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Gasperini’s side were four goals up at the break with Luis Muriel opening after seven minute.

Gomez blasted in the second from a distance just before the half-hour mark, five minutes after Uruguayan defender Diego Godin had pulled Cagliari level on his debut since moving from Inter Milan.

Mario Pasalic and Duvan Zapata also scored in a five-minute spell before the break.

Joao Pedro reduced the deficit for the Sardinians after the break but Sam Lammers marked his first home game with an impressive solo effort with nine minutes to go.

Atalanta have the maximum nine points, but can be joined by Inter Milan who play Lazio later, with Hellas Verona and AC Milan also looking for their third wins against Parma and La Spezia.

– Napoli risk forfeit –

Napoli are also looking for a third straight win, against nine-time holders Juventus, who have four points from two games.

But their match remains uncertain with Gennaro Gattuso’s side remaining in Naples, complying with a decision by regional health authorities.

Both Napoli and Atalanta announced new cases among their players on Saturday.

Gennaro Gattuso’s side now count midfielder Eljif Elmas among those with the virus after Poland international Piotr Zielinski on Friday.

Atalanta said their unnamed player had “a low viral load” and was “asymptomatic”.

Juventus confirmed they would “take to the field” as scheduled despite two positive tests among their staff with coach Andrea Pirlo naming his match-day squad.

The Lega Serie A confirmed that the match between the title rivals remains scheduled for Turin at 1845 GMT despite Napoli remaining at home in Naples.

If Napoli do not play Gattuso’s side would forfeit the game 3-0.

The Lega Serie A are applying UEFA rules whereby a match can take place as long as a side have 13 healthy players, including a goalkeeper.

The only possible exemption would be a club which has an active outbreak of Covid-19 with more than ten new positive cases in a week.

In this case, the club can request a postponement, but only once in the season.

Genoa’s game against Torino on Saturday was postponed with the Ligurian club, who lost 6-0 to Napoli last weekend, now counting 22 cases, including 17 players.

AFP

Neymar Insists PSG Always Knew They Could Win After Atalanta Triumph

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (L) and Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrate after winning at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on August 12, 2020. (Photo by David Ramos / POOL / AFP)

 

Brazilian superstar Neymar insisted that Paris Saint-Germain always believed they could come back from the brink to defeat Atalanta with two goals in the dying moments of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.

“I never thought of going home. From start to finish, from the warm-up, we only thought of qualifying for the semi-finals,” the world’s most expensive footballer told RMC Sport.

Substitute Eric Choupo-Moting’s goal three minutes into added time allowed PSG to beat the Italian outsiders 2-1.

Mario Pasalic gave Atalanta a 27th-minute lead but PSG were rescued when Marquinhos came forward to scramble in a last-minute equaliser.

Kylian Mbappe set up fellow substitute Choupo-Moting to win the tie right at the end.

The French champions will play RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid next Tuesday for a place in the final.

“Nobody is going to take my mind off that I want to go to the final,” added 28-year-old Neymar as PSG made the last-four for the first time since 1995.

“We really have a great group, we’re a family, we know that with this state of mind it’s impossible. to put us out of competition.

“We knew that a ball could arrive, that even after the equaliser we could score a second goal.”

Neymar hailed Atalanta, the team which captured the imagination of neutrals, reaching this stage despite their city of Bergamo being one of the worst hit by the coronavirus.

“Atalanta are a great team, they played very well, they are the surprise of the competition. They were very aggressive, we knew they were going to press us,” said Neymar.

“Now we’re going to have to rest, it was a tough game mentally.

“Another very difficult match is coming.”

 

 

-AFP

Mbappe Out For Three Weeks, Doubtful For Atalanta Clash

 In this file photo taken on July 24, 2020 Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts after an injury during the French Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE), at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 24, 2020 Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe reacts after an injury during the French Cup final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Saint-Etienne (ASSE), at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

 

Kylian Mbappe will be sidelined for “around three weeks” after spraining his ankle in the French Cup final, likely ruling him out of Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League quarter-final against Atalanta on August 12.

The France forward limped off in the first half of Friday’s 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne after a dreadful tackle that resulted in a red card for opposing captain Loic Perrin.

PSG said Monday medical imaging had confirmed the initial test results of a sprained right ankle, with Mbappe also sustaining ligament damage.

The club indicated the expected timeline for his return was “around three weeks”, meaning he will miss Friday’s French League Cup final against Lyon.

The diagnosis also leaves Mbappe a huge doubt for PSG’s resumption of their Champions League campaign, although the 21-year-old could be fit to return for the semi-finals if Thomas Tuchel’s side advance.

The latter stages of European club football’s flagship competition will be played in a unique straight knockout tournament in Lisbon due to the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

PSG against Atalanta will be the first quarter-final of the ‘Final Eight’ mini tournament at the Estadio da Luz, with the semi-finals programmed for August 18-19 and the final to be held August 23.

 

AFP

Champions League: Four-Goal Ilicic Guides Atalanta Into Quarter-Final

Josip Atalanta’s Slovenian midfielder Josip Ilicic celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Valencia CF and Atalanta at Estadio Mestalla on March 10, 2020 in Valencia. POOL UEFA / AFP

 

Atalanta’s fairytale Champions League run continued inside an empty stadium on Tuesday as Josip Ilicic scored four times in a 4-3 win over Valencia that sent his team into the quarter-finals 8-4 on aggregate.

A frantic contest inside an echoing Mestalla stadium was the first of several in the competition to be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus, with 55,000 vacant seats creating a surreal atmosphere that was never likely to deliver a momentous Valencia comeback.

They had been tasked with overturning a 4-1 defeat from the opening game in Italy and any hopes were all-but dashed inside 90 seconds when Mouctar Diakhaby conceded the first of two penalties, each converted by Ilicic.

In between, Kevin Gameiro had levelled for Valencia and then scored again shortly after half-time before Ferran Torres lobbed in to leave the hosts needing three in just over 20 minutes.

Yet any chance of a revival was quickly snuffed out as Ilicic completed his hat-trick and added a fourth to ensure Atalanta ended a strange evening with their names in the draw on March 20.

The Slovenia international also became the first player to score four times away from home in a Champions League knockout match.

Atalanta’s progress remains the greatest surprise of this year’s tournament, in which they lost all three of their opening group games and are featuring for the first time in the club’s 113-year history.

“After a difficult start to this competition, we got the hang of it,” said coach Gian Piero Gasperini afterwards.

All the more the shame then that their advance on the back of two brilliant victories over Valencia was overshadowed by the sight of a Champions League knock-out tie being played with only a handful of stadium staff in the stands.

 Strange atmosphere 

The shouts of the players were audible throughout while in the first half Valencia seemingly projected crowd noise through a sound system, although it was later turned off when hopes of a comeback had disappeared.

Valencia’s supporters had gathered outside the stadium before kick-off to welcome the team bus but none were allowed inside. Atalanta are based in Bergamo in northern Italy, one of the worst-hit regions in a country that has had 631 people killed by the virus so far.

After the final whistle, the players held up a shirt to a television camera that had the message, “Bergamo, this is for you!” written across the front.

“We are very happy with how we have represented a region that suffers so much,” said Gasperini.

Spain announced on Monday that all schools in the Madrid area will close on Wednesday while La Liga had confirmed earlier on Tuesday that all matches in the top two divisions will be played behind closed doors for two weeks at least.

The sense of deflation at not having any fans on hand was impossible to ignore because before even two minutes were up, Valencia were behind.

Diakhaby slid in to block Ilicic’s dummy-shot and scythed down the striker as he turned back. Ilicic drove the penalty down the middle for his 18th goal of the season.

Valencia equalised after Atalanta conceded possession cheaply in midfield and Rodrigo slid in Gameiro to finish, but Ilicic converted a second penalty before half-time, after Diakhaby feathered the ball with his hand.

Gameiro made it 2-2 by heading in Torres’ cross and then Torres found the net himself, lifting the ball over Marco Sportiello to give Valencia some hope with 23 minutes left.

But four minutes later, Ilicic completed his treble with a driven shot into the corner and with progress secured, he grabbed the win too when the ball spilled out to him at the back post and he guided it into the top corner.

AFP

Valencia Plan Champions League Comeback Against  Atalanta In Empty Stadium

(FromL) Valencia’s Portuguese defender Thierry Correia, Valencia’s French midfielder Francis Coquelin, Valencia’s Portuguese midfielder Gongalo Guedes and Valencia’s Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres arrive for a training session at the Paterna Sports City in Paterna on March 09, 2020 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Valencia and Atalanta which will be played behind closed doors in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Valencia will attempt an unlikely comeback without their fans on Tuesday when they play Atalanta in the Champions League behind closed doors due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Retrieving a 4-1 defeat from the first leg in Italy was always going to be a formidable task for Valencia but looks even more so after UEFA instructed their home tie at Mestalla be played in an empty stadium to limit the spread in Spain.

Atalanta are based in Bergamo in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, one of the worst-hit areas in the country. Italy had registered more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus on Monday.

Spain has been less affected so far, with just under 1,000 confirmed cases on Monday and 37 in the Valencian Community, which includes Castellon, Valencia and Alicante.

Valencia announced on February 28 they would be suspending all non-sporting activity with the club’s first-team players after a journalist attending the opening fixture against Atalanta on February 19 was confirmed to have been infected.

READ ALSO: Bergwijn Adds To Tottenham’s Injury Woes

It meant all engagement with the media before and after subsequent matches against Real Betis on February 29 and Alaves on Friday was cancelled, while a tribute to the club’s former player David Villa was also called off.

But the last-16 meeting with Atalanta will be Valencia’s first to be contested behind closed doors and, in theory, puts them at a significant disadvantage in their bid to reach the Champions League’s quarter-finals.

Indignant

Valencia captain Dani Parejo expressed anger last week at what he perceives as inconsistency in the approach of the authorities to football matches.

“I am the first to be concerned about the crisis and that is why I am also first to feel indignant when I see the measures taken are not consistent,” Parejo said.

“I don’t understand how a global crisis can be managed in Spain depending on the region in which you live.”

Parejo added: “If it’s dangerous for people to attend Mestalla, it’s also dangerous at the Parc des Princes, at Anfield, at the Red Bull Arena, at the Etihad [Stadium], at Camp Nou, at the Allianz [Stadium] in Turin and at the Allianz [Arena] in Munich.”

Despite heavy restrictions on travel in and out of northern Italy, Atalanta were able to fly to Spain on Monday morning although media events usually scheduled for the day before a Champions League fixture were cancelled.

Atalanta have played only once since their thumping first-leg victory over Valencia, a 7-2 win on March 1 away at Lecce, who are based in southern Italy. Atalanta fans attending the game underwent medical checks before entering the ground.

Only five Serie A matches were staged on Sunday, with all of the games played in front of empty stands.

Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora has insisted matches should be suspended completely and accused Serie A of being “irresponsible” for allowing some to go ahead.

AFP

Four-Goal Atalanta Near Champions League Quarter-Final After Victory Against Valencia

Atalanta’s Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini (L) and teammates acknowledge the public at the end of 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. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Atalanta defeated Valencia 4-1 on Wednesday to take a giant step closer to reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.

Hans Hateboer scored twice after 16 and 62 minutes, sandwiching further goals from Josep Ilicic (42) and Remo Freuler (57).

READ ALSO: RB Leipzig Beat Tottenham In Champions League Last 16 First Leg

Denis Cheryshev pulled one back for Valencia in the first leg of the last 16 tie at the San Siro, the same stadium where the Spanish side lost the 2001 Champions League final.

AFP

Atalanta Sign Colombian Striker Duvan Zapata

Inter Milan’s Uruguayan defender Diego Godin (L) vies with Atalanta’s Colombian forward Duvan Zapata during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Atalanta on January 11, 2020 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Atalanta has completed the purchase of Colombian striker Duvan Zapata at the end of his two-year loan deal from league rivals Sampdoria, the Serie A club confirmed on Friday.

The Bergamo club spent a total of 26 million euros ($29 million) to bring the 28-year-old to Bergamo.

“I’m very happy,” said Zapata. “First of all, I want to thank Atalanta for this further demonstration of confidence in me.

“We are building something important and can achieve great things together.”

Zapata, who has played 15 times for Colombia and scored three goals, also previously played for Napoli and Udinese.

He joined Atalanta on loan in 2018 and last season was the second top scorer in Serie A with 23 goals scored helping lift the club into the Champions League for the first time.

This season he has scored seven goals in all competitions, despite missing nearly three months with a thigh injury.

Atalanta are through to the Champions League last 16 and next play Spanish club Valencia.

AFP

Swedish Teenage Sensation Set For Juventus Move

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on October 26, 2019, Parma’s Swedish midfielder Dejan Kulusevski (L) and Inter Milan’s Croatian defender Marcelo Brozovic fight for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Parma at The San Siro Stadium in Milan. Promising Swedish teenager Dejan Kulusevski is poised on January 2, 2020, to complete a move to Juventus from Atalanta after undergoing his medical, the Serie A champions confirmed

 

Promising Swedish teenager Dejan Kulusevski is poised on Thursday to complete a move to Juventus from Atalanta after undergoing his medical, the Serie A champions confirmed.

“The Swedish midfielder arrived at the medical centre located at the Allianz Stadium and began his tests,” the club said in a statement.

The 19-year-old has had a breakthrough season since going on loan from Atalanta to Parma in June, scoring four goals and setting up another seven in 17 games.

Maurizio Sarri’s Juve won the race to sign him ahead of Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan, who are trying to end their rivals’ run of eight straight Serie A titles.

The Swede has reportedly signed for 35 million euros ($39 million) plus nine million euros in performance-related bonuses.

Kulusevski, who joined Atalanta in 2016 from Swedish side Brommapojkarna, has agreed a five-year deal worth 2.5 million euros a season, according to reports.

He could remain at Parma, who are seventh in Serie A, four points off the European places, until the end of the season.

Kulusevski played for Macedonia’s Under-17 team, the country where his mother was born, but made his Sweden debut in November against the Faroe Island

AFP

Champions League Debutants Atalanta Reach Last 16

 

 

Atalanta reached the Champions League last 16 in their first season in the tournament on Wednesday after a 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in Group C.

The Italians, who were without a point until their fourth game in the campaign, joined Manchester City in the knock-out stages as Dinamo Zagreb failed to beat the English champions in Croatia, losing 4-1.

Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic and Robin Gosens scored in the second half for the side who finished third in Serie A last season to reach the top tier of European football for the first time.

READ ALSO: Jesus Hat-Trick Powers Man City Into UCL Round Of 16

The defending Ukrainian league and cup champions, who play their home matches in the city of Kharkiv due to the ongoing conflict in the east of the country, will play in the last 32 of the Europa League after the defeat.

Shakhtar coach Luis Castro kept faith with the side which beat Olimpik Donetsk on Friday, starting goal-scoring defenders Ismaily and Mykola Matviyenko.

Atalanta’s Gian Pero Gasperini made three changes to the starting lineup from the weekend’s victory over Verona including bringing in Gosens for the injured Josip Ilicic.

The visitors, who drew with City in November to avoid defeat for the first time in the European campaign, started the more positive.

Attacking midfielders Pasalic and Alejandro Gomez both failed to open the scoring despite superb chances in the first quarter of an hour.

Castagne broke the deadlock for the travelling side on 67 minutes despite VAR checking if captain Gomez was offside.

Midfielder Castagne slotted home from Gomez’s cross after tidy build-up play on the edge of the Shakhtar box.

The home side’s hopes of reaching the knockouts were dealt a blow after a bizarre refereeing decision.

Thorsten Schiffner sent defender Dodo off on 77 for striking an opponent but the right-back seemed to make minimal contact with Remo Freuler.

Gasperini’s men clinched their place in the club’s history books with nine minutes to play as Pasalic beat Andriy Pyatov with the slightest of touches from a Ruslan Malinovskyi free-kick hit from near the corner flag.

Gosens added the third in the fourth minute of injury time after a Taras Stepanenko defensive howler in his own penalty area.

Champions League: Sterling Shines As Man City Humiliate Atalanta

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (R) scores their fifth goal to complete his hattrick during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Manchester City and Atalanta at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northwest England on October 22, 2019. AFP

 

Raheem Sterling hit a brilliant 11-minute hat-trick as Manchester City inflicted a 5-1 thrashing on Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side were rocked by Ruslan Malinovsky’s first half penalty at the Etihad Stadium.

But City responded superbly as Sergio Aguero struck twice before the interval.

Sterling had provided the assists for both of Aguero’s goals, but the England winger was just getting warmed up.

After the interval, Sterling struck three times to complete a personal masterclass that underlined his rise in the Guardiola era from enigmatic playmaker to lethal finisher.

Sterling has emerged as City’s driving force over the last 18 months and his second hat-trick of the season confirmed his place among the world’s best players.

The only frustration for Guardiola was a late red card for young midfielder Phil Foden.

City’s third successive Group C victory leaves them top of the table, five points clear of second placed Dinamo Zagreb with three games left.

Atalanta, making their Champions League debut this season, are still searching for their first point after a third consecutive defeat.

Guardiola had called on City to show they have the mentality to conquer the “little margins” needed to win the Champions League for the first time.

This was the perfect response as they erased a slow start.

Kyle Walker, back in the City defence after illness, let Robin Gosens scamper down the wing to whip in a cross that Timothy Castagne headed over from close-range.

After going 22 minutes without a single shot, Guardiola’s men finally threatened when Aguero’s drive forced a save from Pierluigi Gollini.

But it was Atalanta who struck first in the 28th minute.

For the second successive game, Guardiola had responded to City’s defensive injury problems by deploying midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri as his two centre-backs.

Sterling sparkles 

It was an uncomfortable arrangement and when Josip Ilicic advanced into the City area, Fernandinho rashly stuck out a leg to trip the Atalanta winger and concede a penalty.

Malinovsky sent Ederson the wrong way with the spot-kick as City conceded their first goal in this season’s tournament.

That blow woke City from their slumber and Aguero made up for his earlier miss with the 34th minute equaliser.

Sterling deserved much of the credit for a penetrating run and delicate cross that allowed Aguero to peel off his marker for a clinical close-range finish.

City had their rhythm back and Sterling was the catalyst again when they took the lead in the 38th minute.

Surging into the Atalanta area at pace, Sterling was clearly tripped by Andrea Masiello and Aguero stepped up to drill the penalty past Gollini.

It was Aguero’s 10th goal in all competitions this season, ending a three-game drought for City’s record scorer.

Rodri limped off before half-time, prompting John Stones’ introduction after missing six games with injury, but not before Guardiola, pounding the dug-out seat in frustration, appeared to chastise the City defender for his slow rise from the bench.

Guardiola had suggested this week that City aren’t clinical enough, even though they are the top scorers in the Premier League.

But Sterling had the perfect riposte with his man of the match display and he made it three in the 58th minute.

Kevin De Bruyne found Foden and he alertly laid off to Sterling, who drilled into the roof of the net.

Sterling wasn’t finished yet and he raced onto Ilkay Gundogan’s pass before deftly cutting back onto his right foot for a fine finish into the far corner in the 64th minute.

Capping a memorable evening for Sterling, five minutes later he scored his 11th goal of the season with a close-range finish from Riyad Mahrez’s cross.

Foden, making a rare start in midfield, saw red for two bookings in quick succession in the 82nd minute.

AFP

Atalanta Fined For Dalbert Racist Abuse

Dalbert of ACF Fiorentina during the Italian championship Serie A football match between AC Milan and AFC Fiorentina on September 29, 2019 at Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy. Fabrizio Carabelli /A

Atalanta were fined 10,000 euros ($11,000) by the Italian league on Tuesday for racist abuse by their fans aimed at Fiorentina defender Dalbert during a Serie A match last month.

Italian football federation (FIGC) sports judge Gerardo Mastrandrea imposed the fine based on Dalbert’s evidence, adding that the chants had not been “clearly heard” by officials at the game.

The 26-year-old Brazilian asked the referee to halt play because of the abuse half an hour into the game on September 22 at the Stadio Ennio Tardini in Parma.

Play was suspended for three minutes while a warning was broadcast to jeers and whistles from a section of the crowd, before play resumed. Fiorentina won the match, 1-0.

The next day, during The FIFA Best Football Awards ceremony in Milan, FIFA president Gianni Infantino responded by urging Italian football to tackle racism.

“This is not acceptable any more, we have to say ‘no’ to racism in society. We have to kick racism out of football and society once and for all,” said Infantino.

The problem is a recurring one in Italian football.

This season Inter Milan’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan’s Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie have been targeted by monkey calls without any sanctions being applied.

Blaise Matuidi, Kalidou Koulibaly and Moise Kean were also victims of racist abuse last season.

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia
Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Sampdoria on December 29, 2018 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo locks horns again with Colombian ace Duvan Zapata as Juventus travel to Atalanta on Wednesday with a Coppa Italia semi-final berth at stake.

Juventus have won the last four editions of the competition — sealing a record 18th last season by beating AC Milan in the final.

But their path towards another title after lifting the Italian Super Cup this month could be hampered by quarter-final opponents Atalanta.

Zapata scored a double against Juventus as the side from Bergamo held the champions to a 2-2 draw in Serie A on December 26.

The league leaders had travelled to Bergamo with Ronaldo on the bench but were forced to call on the Portuguese star after a Zapata brace threatened their unbeaten run this season.

READ ALSO: Robben Mulling Tokyo Move After Bayern Exit

Both Ronaldo and Zapata are in form having scored 15 goals in Serie A so far, and are vying for top scorer.

Ronaldo slotted in the penalty that gave Juventus a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lazio on Sunday.

In Bergamo, Zapata missed a penalty but less than a minute later scored the equaliser as his side came from three goals down to hold Roma 3-3.

It was the 27-year-old Colombian’s 14th goal in the last eight league games.

He also scored in the Coppa Italia last 16 tie against Cagliari.

Ronaldo, 33, has scored in his last eight away games, along with the winner in the Italian Super Cup final and a Champions League goal for a total of 17 for Juventus.

But Juventus looked sluggish for an hour on Sunday with second half substitutes Joao Cancelo and Federico Bernardeschi saving the day in Rome.

“Those who come off the bench are essential,” said Massimiliano Allegri. “I was sad to leave Bernardeschi out initially, but we have a big game coming up against Atalanta.”

Juventus will be without defender Leonardo Bonucci who sprained his ankle at the weekend, but Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic are all back training.

– AC Milan v Napoli round two –

Napoli travel back to the San Siro on Tuesday for round two after being held to a goalless draw there by AC Milan in the league on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are trailing 11 points behind Juventus in Serie A and the former AC Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid boss is desperate to win some silverware in his first season.

Brazilian midfielder Allan returns after being dropped from Napoli’s last game in Milan following speculation of a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, with Ancelotti declaring “the matter over” and the player staying in Italy.

AC Milan’s new signing Krzysztof Piatek is in line to make his full debut, having appeared as a substitute at the weekend.

Roma travel to Fiorentina midweek with Inter Milan hosting Lazio on Thursday, after falling 1-0 against Torino.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Tuesday

AC Milan v Napoli (1945)

Wednesday

Fiorentina v Roma (1715), Atalanta v Juventus (1945)

Thursday

Inter Milan v Lazio (2000)

AFP