Atalanta-Milan Preview: It All Comes Down to This

The phrase "Do or die" never brought so much anxiety before. Milan fans have had one massive roller coaster ride this season. Or maybe it is more like traveling down a beautiful river and suddenly realizing that you are about to plummet down a water fall to almost certain death. The dream of returning to Champions League seemed so real earlier in the season, and now that dream hinges on one Sunday evening's set of matches. It all comes down to this.

One match to redeem them all...

Atalanta are already guaranteed Champions League football next season with 78 points. For a team with their resources, to do this three years straight is so much more than a Cinderella story. They have shown that not only do they belong at the ball, they also have incredible financial management as well. In fact, they deserve the Scudetto of club finances... can we actually give them Inter's Scudetto? Inter are in the financial relegation zone.  (Can't blame me for trying.)

Gasperini's side played in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday against Juventus, who celebrated winning the competition that no one cares about as if they had just won a Champions League final, which everyone knows they cannot do. Whether or not the loss fires Atalanta up or makes them tired has yet to be seen. But Atalanta are the only Serie A team that Pioli has not defeated since he came to Milan. That is haunting.

He can't win them all... (can he?)

For Wednesday's match, Gasperini lined up Gollini (aka Gollorius;) Toloi, Romero, Palomino; Hateboer, de Room, Freuler, Gosens; Malinovskyi, Pessina; and Duvan Zapata. Gosens was injured on Wednesday, but it is projected that he will be available tomorrow. Kovalenko is out due to injury. There is the possibility of facing off with our old friends Pasalic and Caldara, the latter of which is scheduled to return to Milan when his loan deal is up in June.

Pioli has a player out that is a glaring miss, which is Ibrahimovic. He has still been at training every day, and is meant to travel with the team for moral support on Sunday. Gabbia is also injured and not likely to be available. Kessie faces his former club, and Kjaer, who just won the Gentlemen's Award on Friday, may not be as much of a gentleman facing the club that sent him packing after only six months on loan. Of course, he is much happier at Milan, where he is both the rock of our defense and a gentleman. But I want him to be mad tomorrow, so I hope he can wreak some revenge.

A lot of talk about how much Mandzukic may or may not play...

There are two Champions League spots left for three teams. A Milan win guarantees us one of those spots, as we currently sit in third place on 76 points, but with a better head to head record than Napoli or Juventus. Either of those teams dropping points could also help us, but it would be so much better to earn our own spot. Milan were clearly nervous against Cagliari last week, which is why this match still matters. So I hope that between Maldini, Pioli, and Ibrahimovic, the team are laser focused and as confident as when we beat Juventus. That it comes down to this final 90 minutes is beyond unnerving for fans. I know that my stomach has been in knots all week. It all comes down to this.

This post inspired by the music of Cake's "The Distance"

Serie A Week 38
Atalanta vs. Milan
Sunday, May 23 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
This match can be streamed LIVE on ESPN+

Atalanta-Milan Preview: It All Comes Down to This Atalanta-Milan Preview: It All Comes Down to This Reviewed by Elaine on 11:30 PM Rating: 5
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