CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – Very marked and morally weakened by the large number of victims of the coronavirus in the Bergamo region, Josip Ilicic returned to Slovenia a few weeks ago and will be unavailable for the quarter-final of the C1. An absence of size for Atalanta, which will have to compose without one of its key players against Paris Saint-Germain.
Contrary to what Parisian supporters might believe, after the injuries of Kylian Mbappé then Marco Verratti, the bad news is not just about the capital club. Atalanta will also be cut off from one of its major offensive assets on August 12 in Lisbon. Josip Ilicic, who has not played with the Dea since July 11, returned to Slovenia a few weeks ago. And he won’t be coming back anytime soon.
The right to dream, the duty to believe
And the reasons for this absence are saddening. Several reliable and serious transalpine media, such as Corriere della Sera or theANSA, suggest depression. Ilicic lost his father when he was very young, and had to take refuge in Slovenia to escape the war in Bosnia, his native country. Very marked by this difficult youth, the player is very fragile from a psychological point of view. And the health crisis has revived terrible memories in him.
Residing in Bergamo, Lombardy, Ilicic has been at the center of the epidemic for several months. Nearly 17,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the region, almost half of the total number of deaths on Italian territory (just over 35,000). And this terrible pandemic has affected Ilicic a lot, who ended up returning a few weeks ago with the permission of his club with his family in Slovenia.
It’s like Juve misses Dybala
Gian Piero Gasperini will therefore have to compose without one of his offensive keys against Paris Saint-Germain. And the Italian tactician conceded it himself: it’s a hard blow. “Mbappé will be missed at PSG, but Ilicic is fundamental for us. It’s as if Dybala is missing at Juve, Immobile at Lazio or Lukaku at Inter “tried to illustrate the coach of the Dea on July 28, after the victory of his team on the lawn of Parma.
During Atalanta’s last outing in the Champions League, for the round of 16 return on the lawn of Valencia, Ilicic had dazzled the football world. Author of a quadruplet on the lawn of Mestalla, the Slovenian international was elected man of the match, becoming at 32 years and 41 days old become the oldest player to score at least 3 away goals in the Champions League. A high-class performance that the striker will therefore not be able to repeat in Lisbon.
Josip Ilicic (Atalanta), author of a quadruple in Valencia (3-4)
Credit: Getty Images
How to replace it?
But it is not only in the Champions League that Ilicic has feasted. He scored 15 goals and delivered 8 assists in 26 Serie A games. To replace him against PSG, Gian Piero Gasperini has several solutions. “We are looking for other balances without a player with his characteristics and we adapt with Pasalic, Gomez, Malinovskyi “, even detailed the tactician a few days ago.
In the last game played by Atalanta, a defeat against Inter in the last day of Serie A, Gian Piero Gasperini lined up an offensive trio Pasalic-Gomez-Zapata. A trio that is expected to be renewed on August 12 in Lisbon against PSG, unless the coach of the Dea reviews his plans and gives his chance to Luis Muriel in the lead or Ruslan Malinovskyi.
Josip Ilicic is not the only mainstay of the Dea to miss the first match of the Lisbon Final 8 on Wednesday. Pierluigi Gollini, the Atalanta goalkeeper, is injured in the knee and will not be able to hold his place against Paris Saint-Germain, according to the Italian press. It is therefore Marco Sportiello, his lining, who should logically put on the gloves and act as the last bulwark against the Parisian club.
Even if Gasperini has several solutions to replace Ilicic, his absence remains a blow for Atalanta. It is, in the words of the coach, comparable to that of Mbappé supposedly with PSG. This does not mean that PSG must lower their guard against the Dea, as its style of play and its imposed rhythm require great concentration and defensive solidity. The duel between Parisians and Bergamasques promises to be just as exciting.
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