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Champions League

Man Utd handed major Champions League boost as Atalanta without five key stars



Manchester United’s rivals Atalanta are set to be without five important players for their Champions League clash on Wednesday evening.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team are desperate for a victory against the Serie A club after winning just one of their last five games in all competitions.

As reported by Italian outlet Calcio Mercato, Atalanta will be without Rafael Toloi, Berat Djimsiti, Hans Hateboer, Matteo Pessina and Robin Gosens for their trip to Old Trafford.

Captain and defender Toloi, 31, picked up an injury against Serie A rivals Empoli at the weekend, while the other four players are long-term absentees.

Atalanta are currently top of their Champions League group after securing a 2-2 draw with Villarreal and beating Young Boys 1-0 in their last European outing.

United, meanwhile, are third in the table following unconvincing performances against the same teams but could go top with a win on Wednesday.

The Red Devils have reportedly assured Solskjaer he will not be sacked anytime soon ahead of a nightmare run of fixtures for his struggling team.

United are set to play Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Atalanta twice in the coming weeks, with games against Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal on the horizon.

Despite their opponents’ lack of form, Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini insists the English giants are still a dangerous team and will be hungry to prove their critics wrong.

He told the press: “I think they’re going to want to react aren’t they quite clearly. They’re going to want to pull out a really good reaction in front of their fans.

“It’s true to say that perhaps they’ve had a couple of setbacks of late but by the same token I saw the game against Leicester and in the first half in particular they played really well.

“You have to bear in mind that sometimes you’re playing against good teams.

“I think that the fact of the matter is we’re playing against a top team. We are playing a top team & I don’t think they’re in crisis or difficulty from that point of view. I don’t think that’s the case at all.”

Atalanta have made a decent start to their Serie A campaign and sit in sixth, one point outside of the Champions League qualification spots.

United’s most recent result was a devastating 4-2 Premier League defeat to Leicester and Solskjaer is keen for his team to bounce back against the Italians.

He told the press: “Every team will go through a period and we are in one now of poor form. We know that and we know we need to improve.

“As I have said so many times, the coaching staff we have are amazing, their attention to detail and the sessions they put on, I couldn’t ask for more.

“Of course it is not a gimmicky, jovial and happy camp. We are focussed and determined. You look at yourself and ask what you can do to help the team.

“I have seen a reaction. Conceding four goals [against Leicester] is a big eye-opener and we need to improve on different levels and on loads of detail.

Winning at home against Atalanta would be massive and a big boost.”

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Champions League

Atalanta boss Gasperini laughs off ‘Ronaldo problem’ claims after late equaliser for Man Utd




Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini laughed off claims Cristiano Ronaldo has been culpable for Manchester United’s inconsistent form and offered the Portuguese star praise after his last-gasp equaliser.

Ronaldo volleyed home a 91st-minute equaliser to deny Atalanta three points in their dramatic 2-2 draw in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner levelled the game twice late in each half, after Josip Ilicic’s 12th-minute opener and Duvan Zapata’s 56th-minute strike.

During United’s lean run of form, there had been some criticism of Ronaldo for his defensive work, but he has now scored in every group game in this season’s Champions League.

Ronaldo, 36, became the oldest player to score two or more goals in a game for United in European competition, having also matched Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 2003 feat of scoring in four consecutive Champions League appearances.

“Some even managed to say he was a problem, imagine Ronaldo as a problem,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia after the game. “He rarely gets it off target, half the time he scores, half the time it is saved.”

The result leaves United top of Group F on head-to-head from Villarreal, with both sides on seven points, while Atalanta are third on five points approaching the final two matchdays.

Gasperini admitted deep regret at Ronaldo’s opportunistic equaliser but continued to praise the United veteran, who has five goals in the Champions League group stage, along with four in the Premier League this season.

“The regret is one thousand. We believed in it,” Gasperini said during his post-game news conference. “We believed in it because their thrust seemed a bit exhausted too.

“We had good spaces, we controlled the race well and was very close. But this is the Champions League. We faced an extraordinary player with incredible ballistic ability, he fired a shot on a bounced ball several times. This determined the result.

“We have to accept it anyway we still have some chances for qualification. It still depends on us. We played two games that have given a lot to us, to Atalanta and Bergamo.”


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Champions League

Michael Owen predicts Atalanta vs Man Utd result ahead of Champions League showdown




Former Manchester United striker Michael Owen has given his pre-match prediction ahead of the Red Devils’ trip to Atalanta for their fourth Champions League group stage game of the season.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears to have earned himself some much-needed breathing room after registering a crucial victory over TottenhamHotspur on Saturday.

Speculation over Solskjaer’s future as Man Utd boss has been rife since the 5-0 home humiliation at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool, but the Norwegian remains in charge for now.

Solskjaer will know how crucial a win away at Atalanta could prove to be in terms of maintaining whatever kind of feel-good factor there is around the club following the Spurs win.

The Serie A side ran United dangerously close last time out at Old Trafford, boasting a 2-0 lead at half-time.

However, a Cristiano Ronaldo- inspired comeback ensured United’s blushes were spared and Solskjaer’s men came away with all three points.

Speaking to BetVictor, former United goalscorer Owen believes another win over their Italian counterparts could be a task too far tonight.

Referring to the win over Spurs last weekend, Owen claimed: “That was a huge, potentially season-saving win for United on Saturday.

“I thought the change of shape worked really well and the strike duo of Cavani and Ronaldo caused lots of problems.

“This will be a tough game for them though and a point would be an excellent result. I’m going for 1-1.”

United’s form in recent weeks has been dismal, but Saturday’s victory could provide a springboard to kick-start some form ahead of a daunting run of fixtures.

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Champions League

Lindelof not in Man Utd squad for Atalanta clash




Victor Lindelof will miss Manchester United’s Champions League game against Atalanta after picking up a knock in training Monday.

The club said the centre-back did not make the trip to Bergamo ahead of Tuesday’s Group F clash.

Lindelof played in the back alongside Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Tottenham.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sticks with a back three, Eric Bailly seems the most likely option to step in for Lindelof against Atalanta.

Luke Shaw could also move to centre-back, leaving an opening on the left wing that could be filled by Alex Telles.

Lindelof has started all three of United’s Champions League matches this season, and six of ten Premier League fixtures.

United are top of Group F after fighting back for wins over Villarreal and Atalanta following a loss away to Young Boys to open the group stage.

Wheels up for Atalanta with @Aeroflot_World! 🇮🇹#MUFC | #UCL

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 1, 2021


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