by Zack Lambert
Atalanta at Valencia
Spread: Valencia (Even); O/U: 3.5
Moneyline: Atalanta +135, Valencia +180, Draw +285
Time/Location: 4:00 ET, Camp de Mestalla, Valencia, Spain
Score on Aggregate: Atalanta 4-1 Valencia
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Atalanta are in the midst of the most important stretch of football they’ve ever played. The Champions League is a legitimate goal for the Italians and a run at the title, while unlikely, could happen with some luck. What’s even better for Atalanta is they’re in the swing of some of the best football they’ve played all season.
In those last five games they’ve played their scoring ratio has been 17 scored to seven against. If you’ve been paying any attention at all to Italian football this season you’ll know that isn’t a fluke. Josep Ilčić, Duván Zapata, and Luis Muriel are all capable of swinging a match at any moment, but likely won’t be tasked with that in this match.
THe dominant performance from Atalanta in the first leg all but secured their advancement into the quarterfinals. Sure, an away goal is valuable, but a 3-0 comeback is very unlikely at this point. Atalanta will probably play their own game for at least a portion of the first half but just shell up and conserve energy in the second.
Valencia simply aren’t built for a run of any kind this season. In seven Champions League appearances they’ve scored an anemic ten goals, moving on solely because of a terrible group. Even in La Liga they’re hardly scoring enough to get by, just 38 goals in 27 appearances.
It’s true that highly opportunistic teams are able to find good results, but Valencia just aren’t laden with enough talent for that to be an option. Atalanta aren’t going to give up enough quality opportunities for Valencia to even come close to those three goals they so desperately need.
In the first leg of this round Valencia were outdone in most categories. They did register more shots than Atalanta but far fewer on target. They also passed a few ticks better but that doesn’t matter at all if your end result is a loss. I’m not sure if there’s a world where Valencia can advance.
Analysis and Pick
While this match isn’t starting off close it might be worth the watch in case Atalanta decides to go nuclear on Valencia. The more likely scenario is that Atalanta field a defensive lineup with a goal scorer on top and play conservatively, but never rule out a lashing just to be sure Valencia stay down.
I rarely ever call a draw in these games just because it isn’t fun or likely, but this feels like one of those games. One side will score and another brings it back soon after, but that’s all we get. So boring as it may be, take the draw and the under will hit.