Luis Muriel has moved past his ‘super-sub’ position with a wealthy vein of kind to spice up Atalanta’s hopes towards Actual Madrid within the first leg of their final 16 Champions League tie in Bergamo on Wednesday.
Colombian ace Muriel scored and arrange countryman Duvan Zapata for one more as Atalanta warmed up for the Spanish champions with a 4-2 win over Napoli to maneuver as much as fifth in Serie A on the weekend.
“Muriel is extraordinary, not just for the help and the purpose,” mentioned coach Gian Piero Gasperini after the ahead scored in a ninth consecutive Serie A appearances as a starter.
“This 12 months he has proven extraordinary psychological, bodily and athletic kind, he has made a terrific leap in high quality additionally by way of consistency.”
The 29-year-old is having the very best marketing campaign of his profession with 17 targets to date together with two within the Champions League group phases.
He will probably be eager to impress after a disappointing 18 months at Sevilla, signed from Sampdoria in 2017 because the La Liga facet’s costliest switch.
He scored 13 targets in 65 video games in Spain earlier than returning to Italy on a six-month mortgage spell with Fiorentina, shifting on to Atalanta in mid-2019.
In his debut season, Muriel earned a fame as a super-sub, scoring 18 Serie A targets regardless of solely beginning 10 matches.
This season he has scored 14 league targets, the identical as AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and behind Cristiano Ronaldo (18) for Juventus and Inter’s Romelu Lukaku (17).
However whereas Lukaku and Ronaldo’s targets embody 4 penalties and Ibrahimovic’s three, solely one among Muriel’s have been from the spot.
“The coach is giving me area and extra enjoying time recently so I wish to take advantage of it,” mentioned Muriel, who has scored 36 targets in 71 video games for Atalanta.
– ‘Distinctive alternative’ –
Gasperini has shaken issues up at Atalanta in current months with emblematic captain Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez frozen out after disagreeing with the coach over techniques throughout a Champions League match.
Gomez was unnoticed of their remaining Group D sport away at Ajax the place Muriel scored the winner that despatched the Italians via as runners-up behind Liverpool.
Gomez was then offered to Sevilla in January.
The match towards 13-time European champions Actual would be the largest sport ever performed by the Italian group whose solely main trophy was the 1963 Coppa Italia.
“It is a distinctive alternative,” mentioned Muriel.
“If Atalanta play like towards Napoli, conceding little and creating lots, it is going to be very tough for them too.”
The Bergamo facet have the second greatest assault within the Italian league behind leaders Inter Milan.
Muriel, Zapata, Robin Gosens and Cristian Romero had been all on track on the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday, the sixth time this season the membership have scored with 4 completely different gamers.
“This offers us a morale enhance earlier than Actual Madrid,” warned 63-year-old Gasperini, who has remodeled the membership into one of many prime Italian sides since taking on in 2016.
The northerners reached the quarter-finals of their first Champions League marketing campaign final season, beating Spanish membership Valencia within the final 16, and will probably be hoping to match that achievement once more.
“We’re up towards essentially the most profitable membership on the planet,” added Gasperini of Zinedine Zidane’s La Liga champions.
“A unprecedented fixture for us. I do not assume Atalanta have ever confronted such a group. We’re curious to deal with them to see what we will do.”