Leeds United will face Serie A side Atalanta tomorrow in the Whites’ final friendly game before the 2016/17 Chamionship campaign begins at the start of August.
The clash with last season’s 13th-placed Serie A side will take place at Elland Road with a scheduled 3p.m. kick-off. This final game will bring Leeds’ pre-season to an end after first team games against Irish sides Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers and English sides Guiseley and Peterborough United.
Five-times Serie B and one-time Italian Cup winners Atalanta will no doubt bring a full and decent squad to Elland Road. Whoever they decide to bring, it will represent a step up in class and prestige to the teams Leeds will have already faced. The Whites have beaten Irish sides Shelbourne (2-1) and Shamrock Rovers (3-0), fought an epic comeback from 3-0 down to defeat Guiseley 4-3 and gone down 2-1 to the only English league opposition that they have face in Peterborough United.
Boss Garry Monk had less than a week for a full squad’s training to take effect as he looks to take on the highest calibre opposition that his Leeds United side will face as of the pre-season.
Five facts about Atalanta for Leeds fans to pore over
1. Atalanta play at the Stadio Atleti Azzuri d’Italia and are currently managed by Gian Piero Gasperini. Their club nickname is La Dea, or The Goddess; other nicknames for them are the Nerazzuri (the Black/Blues) and the Oribici. They were founded on the 8th October 1907. The current club is the result of a merger between the Original Atalanta side and a third team called Bergamasca; the merger happening in 1924.
2. Their only cup win was the 1963 Coppa Italia although they did reach the Semi-Final of the 1987/88 European Cup Winners’ Cup. They lost to that season’s eventual winners Mechelen of Belgium. Their passage to this semi-final wasn’t without incident as the then-second tier Italian side suffered a first round defeat away from home in the first leg against Welsh minnows Merthyr Tydfil. In reaching the semi, Atalanta became one of only two teams playing outside a top tier competition to get that far – Cardiff City being the other.
3. It’s been a series of yo-yo-ing promotions and relegations for the Italians in relatively recent years. The club have been relegated in 1987, 1994, 1998, 2003, 2005 and 2010. From 2003 onward they have been promoted back to Serie A at the first opportunity. In 2011/12 Atalanta were docked 6 points in a scandal that rocked Italian football. They went on that season to secure their highest points tally in Serie A of 52 points from 38 games.
4. Last season in Serie A, Atalanta preferred the 4-2-3-1 formation over others. Their average age for the starting XI was 25.5-years-old and their average value was £1.68m per player. The youngest player in next season’s squad is Ákos Kecskés, a 21-year-old central defender returning from a loan with Újpest FC. The oldest players in the squad are likely to be Senegalese/French left-back Boukary Dramé (31), Italian central midfielder Luca Cigarini (31) and Chilean/Italian Mauricio Pinilla (31)
5. Players Leeds United might want to look out for include the following. 31-year-old centre forward Mauricio Pinilla (value £1.7m) scored five goals and provided three assists in 20 games last season. However, the Whites may want to pay more attention to 28-year-old Argentinian/Italian Alejandro Gómez (value £5.95m) who scored seven times in Serie A last term, as well as providing nine assists for others. A new man in at the club is Italian striker Alberto Paloschi (value £5.1m) who will join this season from Swansea City. The most valuable player on the team is 25-year-old Italian keeper Marco Sportiello (£6.8m). Putting out their most valuable side (4-2-3-1) would see Leeds fans watching a £39.2m starting XI take the field.