Serie A: Atalanta aims to hold historic lead as Napoli and AC Milan lurk

Atalanta hosts Cremonese on Sunday as shock early leader of Serie A after a fast start which appears to be gathering further pace.

In first place for the first time since 1964, Atalanta has collected 13 points from its first five matches, with its only dropped points coming in a draw with champions AC Milan.

Another match against promoted Cremonese, after last weekend's straightforward 2-0 win at Monza, offers Gian Piero Gasperini's team the perfect chance to consolidate their lead.

Unlike the rest of its rivals in the upper reaches of Serie A, Atalanta doesn't have any European commitments after finishing a disappointing eighth last season.

That gives it a huge advantage ahead of the World Cup, with domestic and continental commitments packed into an extremely tight schedule before the Qatar tournament gets underway in November.

Also boosting the Bergamo outfit is the way young gun Rasmus Hojlund slotted into the team at Monza, linking up with fellow newcomer Ademola Lookman to net on his first start after arriving for 17 million euros from Sturm Graz.

The 19-year-old Dane has been compared to Manchester City star Erling Haaland and will be key to Atalanta holding off Napoli and AC Milan, both two points back and in high spirits.

Napoli can take the provisional lead of Italy's top flight on Saturday when it kick off the weekend's fixtures with the visit of Spezia, fresh from their 4-1 demolition of Liverpool.

Luciano Spalletti's team has re-emerged as a title challenger after a turbulent summer left it looking like a club deep in crisis, with star players leaving and fans begging owner Aurelio De Laurentiis to sell.

The impact of new arrivals, in particular Kvicha Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-jae, has changed Napoli from a team supposedly in transition to one which has shown enough to suggest its first league title since the days of Diego Maradona is a possibility.

Milan meanwhile made a clear Scudetto statement with last weekend's thrilling derby triumph over Inter Milan and travel to Sampdoria, which is winless with just two goals scored.

Inter is four points behind Atalanta in eighth and has the visit of Torino to deal with after derby defeat and a disappointing opener in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Torino is a point ahead of Inter and alongside Udinese are providing unfamiliar faces at the top end of the table, ready to capitalize on Inter's low morale after its 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich.

Player to watch: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

Georgia forward Kvaratskhelia has been a sensation during the first few weeks of the Serie A season, and his star has risen even higher after his superb display in the humiliation Napoli laid on Liverpool.

Four goals and one assist in his first five matches in Italy -- including the winner at Lazio last weekend -- have made the 21-year-old one of the hottest young talents in Europe and with Victor Osimhen injured on Wednesday, his wing wizardry will be the attacking focus against Spezia.

The "Kvaradona" moniker might have come far too soon, but there is something in his unconventional shape and unpredictable decision-making which excites in a way few Napoli players ever have.

Schedule:
Saturday: Napoli vs. Spezia, Inter vs. Torino, Sampdoria vs. AC Milan
Sunday: Atalanta vs. Cremonese, Bologna vs. Fiorentina, Lecce vs. Monza, Sassuolo vs. Udinese, Lazio vs. Verona, Juventus vs.  Salernitana
Monday: Empoli vs. Roma
Viewing: Soccer on TV

td/jc

© Agence France-Presse

1 comment about "Serie A: Atalanta aims to hold historic lead as Napoli and AC Milan lurk".
  1. R2 Dad, September 9, 2022 at 1:29 p.m.

    All of a sudden Serie A has become interesting--whodda thunkit after Juve dominated for 10 years.

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