Atalanta victory over Lazio previews thrilling Champions League qualification battle

Lazio vs Atalanta was a thrilling contest even if the scoreline does not suggest it, and it can be viewed as a taster of the Champions League qualification race that Serie A is about to serve up.

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Ever since Napoli streaked away at the top of Serie A and their supposed nearest challengers started dropping points or getting points deductions, it has been clear that the Champions League qualification is where the drama will be in Serie A.

Lazio’s 2-0 defeat against Atalanta on Matchday 22 only exhibited that point further as the two sides looked dangerous in attack and were firm in the tackle throughout the match. All direct clashes between teams in the fight for the top four are set to be tremendously exciting for the rest of the season as there is so much on the line.

Atalanta aren’t just in good form anymore

After a bright start with them being the only side to keep the pace with Napoli early on, there was a very tough end to 2022 for Atalanta and it seemed like a Europa League spot would be their best possible finish. The explosive form of Ademola Lookman along with the emerging talent of Rasmus Hojlund and other performers means they are right in the thick of this fight.

Lookman is the most important player on the pitch for La Dea and his ability to create danger no matter where on the pitch he picks up the ball was a pain for Lazio all night long on Saturday.

To make matters better for Atalanta, a player like Davide Zappacosta can come into the side and score a wonderful goal into the top corner to give La Dea the lead.

The Stadio Olimpico had to watch on as he danced his way into the box on multiple occasions. Hojlund was impressing too and really should have scored at least once early in the game. He did get his goal after a superb run from Lookman midway through the second half. That made it 2-0 to Atalanta and despite being so threatening early on, Lazio were unable to get themselves back into the game.

What appeared to be good form in recent weeks is now just their level. They are a team with the capabilities of finishing in the top four and enough quality players to make it happen.

Atalanta’s Rasmus Hojlund scores the second against Lazio in Serie A. [Getty]

Serie A’s thrilling Champions League race

Very recently, Lazio were the ones who had raced into prime position to grab a Champions League spot and now they are sixth. Milan were the closest challengers to Napoli but now they are fifth.

Inter cannot be trusted to put a run of form together but right now, they are in second. AS Roma have been in good form but drew 1-1 with Lecce on Matchday 22. There are so many moving parts and there are currently five teams separated by four points. Those five teams are fighting for three positions, and you can never entirely rule Juventus out from marching up the table and getting involved again at the back end of the season.

This result means Atalanta climb to third in the table and have something to protect, whilst Lazio are back to the drawing board.

In truth, the collective quality of those teams is not where it should be, but in many ways that is adding to the entertainment each week as so many teams struggle for consistent performances.

The match between Lazio and Atalanta felt like a taster of the general fight that is about to ensue for Europe’s premier club competition.

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