Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Match Preview: Man United v Atalanta

 



Buoyed by a last-gasp Matchday 2 winner, Manchester United welcome Atalanta to Old Trafford looking to overtake the Italian side at the top of Group F.

An added-time Cristiano Ronaldo goal gave United a 2-1 victory at home to Villarreal, who had beaten them in last season's UEFA Europa League final, on Matchday 2, the English club's first points of this season's UEFA Champions League after an opening defeat at Young Boys by the same scoreline. Atalanta edged out the Swiss side 1-0 in Bergamo in the second round of matches having drawn their first fixture 2-2 at Villarreal.

This is the teams' first ever meeting.

FORM GUIDE

MANCHESTER UNITED

United are making their 24th appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage, an English record, with Arsenal (19) second on that list and Chelsea (18) third. Overall, only Barcelona and Real Madrid (both 26) and Porto and Bayern München (both 25) have featured more often.

The Red Devils have qualified for the knockout phase on 18 occasions, also an English record, although they missed out in 2020/21.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær's side finished third in their section in 2020/21 behind Paris Saint-Germain and Leipzig, a 3-2 loss in Germany on Matchday 6 enabling the latter to leapfrog United into second place.

United therefore moved into the UEFA Europa League, beating Real Sociedad (4-0 a, 0-0 h), AC Milan (1-1 h, 1-0 a), Granada (2-0 a, 2-0 h) and Roma (6-2 h, 2-3 a) en route to their final defeat against Villarreal, in which they went down 11-10 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the Stadion Gdansk.

A 3-1 loss to Paris on Matchday 5 last season made it three defeats in United's last six home UEFA Champions League games; they have been beaten in five of the last ten in the competition at Old Trafford (W4 D1).

United have won their UEFA Champions League section 15 times, although only once since 2013/14.

The Manchester club finished second in the Premier League in 2020/21, 12 points behind local rivals Manchester City.

European Cup winners in 1968, United lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in 1999 and 2008, also reaching the final in 2009 and 2011 – the latter four all under Ferguson.

United played four matches against Italian clubs on their way to last season's UEFA Europa League final, beating Milan in the round of 16 and Roma in the semi-final.

United's overall home record against Italian visitors is W14 D3 L3 with one of those defeats coming in the last UEFA Champions League encounter, against Juventus on Matchday 3 in 2018/19 (0-1).

ATALANTA

Having never featured in the UEFA Champions League before 2019/20, Atalanta are making their third successive appearance in the group stage. Quarter-finalists on debut two seasons ago, they again reached the knockout rounds in 2020/21, losing to Real Madrid in the last 16.

The Italian club were second behind Liverpool in Group D last season, sealing progress with a 1-0 win at Ajax on Matchday 6. That gave them 11 points, two behind Liverpool who had won 5-0 in Bergamo on Matchday 3 Atalanta's heaviest European defeat – before Gian Piero Gasperini's side turned the tables with a famous 2-0 victory at Anfield.

The club from Bergamo were subsequently beaten 1-0 at home and 3-1 away by Real Madrid in the round of 16.

Atalanta won all three away games in last season's group stage, scoring seven goals without conceding. Last season's defeat in Madrid is their only loss in their last seven away UEFA Champions League matches (W5 D1).

Atalanta were third in Serie A for the second season in a row in 2020/21 and also reached the Coppa Italia final, losing 2-1 to Juventus.

Atalanta have been paired with an English club in all three of their UEFA Champions League group campaigns. In 2018/19 they lost 5-1 at Manchester City on Matchday 3 before gaining their first ever point in the competition with a 1-1 home draw; last season they suffered that 5-0 reverse to Liverpool in Bergamo, but bounced back with a 2-0 away win thanks to goals from Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens.

Atalanta's only other fixtures against an English club came in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League group stage, when they beat Everton 3-0 at home and 5-1 away, Gosens scoring on Merseyside.

LATEST NEWS

MANCHESTER UNITED

Cristiano Ronaldo's Matchday 2 appearance was his 178th in the UEFA Champions League, group stage to final, setting a new competition record ahead of Iker Casillas's previous best of 177.

David de Gea and Nemanja Matic both made their 50th appearances in the UEFA Champions League, group stage to final, on Matchday 2.

Bruno Fernandes has played 49 times in UEFA club competition.

United have collected 14 points from their opening eight Premier League games (W4 D2 L2), losing 4-2 at Leicester on Saturday. That was United's first away league defeat in 30 games, since a 2-0 loss at Liverpool in January 2020, and the first time they had conceded four goals in an away league game since a 4-0 loss at Everton in April 2019.

The Matchday 2 win against Villarreal is United's only victory in their last four home matches in all competitions (D1 L2).

United have lost four of their last seven games in all competitions (W2 D1).

Ronaldo has five goals in seven appearances for United since rejoining the club this summer, including two on his second debut in a 4-1 win at home to Newcastle on 11 September. They were his first Premier League goals since 10 May 2009; that gap of 12 years 124 days is the second longest in Premier League history, after Matt Jackson (13 years 187 days).

Ronaldo also broke Damien Delaney's Premier League record of 11 years 155 days for the longest gap between matches; his previous appearance had come 12 years 118 days earlier.

The Portuguese forward was named Premier League player of the month for September.

Mason Greenwood scored in United's first three league games this season but his goal at Leicester on Saturday was his first since a 1-0 win at Wolves on 29 August. He is only the fourth teenager to score 20 or more goals in the Premier League, after Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney.

A 2-1 win at West Ham on 19 September was United's 29th successive away league game without defeat (W19 D10), extending the new English Football League record they had set with victory at Wolves before it was ended at Leicester.

Paul Pogba played 90 minutes in both matches as France beat Belgium (3-2) and Spain (2-1) to win the UEFA Nations League.

Ronaldo took his international goal tally to 115 with one in Portugal's 3-0 friendly win against Qatar on 9 October and a hat-trick against Luxembourg in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying three days later (5-0). Already the world record holder for international goals after eclipsing former Iran forward Ali Daei's total of 109 with two against the Republic of Ireland on 1 September, Ronaldo now has ten international hat-tricks, more than any other player; he was previously level with former Swedish international Sven Rydell on nine.

Fernandes was also on target against Luxembourg.

Scott McTominay scored Scotland's late winner in a 3-2 World Cup qualifying victory at home to Israel on 9 October. It was his first international goal – on his 27th appearance.

Raphaël Varane suffered an adductor strain in France's win against Spain on 10 October and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.

Marcus Rashford underwent shoulder surgery in early August and marked his first appearance since the UEFA EURO 2020 final on 11 July with a goal at Leicester.

Amad Diallo has not played this season due to a thigh injury.

Harry Maguire played 90 minutes on Saturday having been out with a calf injury since a 1-0 loss at home to Aston Villa on 25 September.

Fernandes and Ronaldo are both on the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, with the winner to be announced on 29 November.

On 7 October Rashford received an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester.

ATALANTA

Atalanta went down 3-2 at home to AC Milan on 3 October, their second home defeat of the season. Their last three Serie A losses, and six of the last seven, have come at home.

Mario Pašalic scored in added time against Milan, his first goal of the season. The Croatian midfielder has now scored at least once in each of his last nine campaigns with Hajduk Split, Elche, Monaco, Milan, Spartak Moskva and now Atalanta.

The Bergamo club bounced back with a 4-1 victory at Empoli on Sunday, Josip Ilicic scoring the first two goals – his first for Atalanta since 11 April – and, after an own goal, Duván Zapata making it four strikes in six Serie A appearances this season.

Sunday's goal was Zapata's 100th in Serie A, making him the first Colombian to achieve the feat.

Atalanta won their first two away games of the season for only the second time, after 2000/01. They are unbeaten in 11 away matches in all competitions (W7 D4), since the 3-1 loss at Real Madrid on 16 March.

Ilicic scored twice in Slovenia's 4-0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying win away to Malta on 8 October and was also on target in a 2-1 home loss to Russia three days later, meaning he has scored five goals in his last three matches for club and country.

Joakim Mæhle scored in Denmark's wins against Moldova (4-0) on 9 October and Austria three days later (1-0), the latter result securing the Danes' place at next year's World Cup.

Turkey were 2-1 winners in Latvia on 11 October despite Merih Demiral's own goal.

Berat Djimsiti had to undergo surgery on his left arm after suffering a fracture in Albania's 1-0 qualifying victory in Hungary on 9 October and missed Atalanta's weekend win.

Matteo Pessina and Rafael Tolói had to withdraw from Italy's UEFA Nations League squad due to thigh injuries. The former sat out Atalanta's game on Sunday which Tolói started but had to be replaced before half-time.

Robin Gosens is expected to be out for several weeks after suffering a thigh injury against Young Boys.

Hans Hateboer has been out since undergoing surgery on his left foot in August.






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