Luis Muriel has moved past his ‘super-sub’ position with a wealthy vein of kind to spice up Atalanta’s hopes in opposition to 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 an additional 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 aim,” mentioned coach Gian Piero Gasperini after the ahead scored in a ninth consecutive Serie A appearances as a starter.
“This yr he has proven the extraordinary psychological, bodily and athletic kind, he has made a terrific leap in high quality additionally when it comes to consistency.”
The 29-year-old is having the most effective marketing campaign of his profession with 17 targets thus far together with two within the Champions League group phases.
He can 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, transferring on to Atalanta in mid-2019.
In his debut season, Muriel earned a status 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 embrace 4 penalties and Ibrahimovic’s three, solely considered one of Muriel’s have been from the spot.
“The coach is giving me house and extra enjoying time recently so I wish to profit from it,” mentioned Muriel, who has scored 36 targets in 71 video games for Atalanta.
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 disregarded of their closing 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 in opposition to 13-time European champions Actual would be the greatest sport ever performed by the Italian staff whose solely main trophy was the 1963 Coppa Italia.
“It is a distinctive alternative,” mentioned Muriel.
“If Atalanta play like in opposition to Napoli, conceding little and creating loads, will probably be very tough for them too.”
The Bergamo facet have the second-best assault within the Italian league behind leaders Inter Milan.
Muriel, Zapata, Robin Gosens and Cristian Romero had been all on course 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 can be hoping to match that achievement once more.
“We’re up in opposition to probably the most profitable membership on the planet,” added Gasperini of Zinedine Zidane’s La Liga champions.
“A rare fixture for us. I do not suppose Atalanta have ever confronted such a staff. We’re curious to sort out them to see what we are able to do.”