Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said the city of Bergamo’s terrible suffering during the coronavirus pandemic provides “extra motivation” to his side as the Italian underdogs go into Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon.
“We know the level of expectation that there is around this match, and how much passion there is for Atalanta in Bergamo and the surrounding province,” Gasperini told reporters on Tuesday.
“There is extra motivation for us after what has happened. We have to represent our city in the best possible way and give the people something to smile about.”
Bergamo, near Milan in northern Italy, was one of the worst hit regions in Italy when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak earlier this year.
At one point the army was called in to take away coffins because local morgues could not cope with the number of virus deaths.
But on the field Atalanta are enjoying the best spell in their history.
This is their first Champions League campaign but they have just finished third for the second year running in Serie A — scoring 98 goals in the process in their 38 matches — so will be back at Europe’s top table again next season.
“We come into the game in great condition. Our league form has been great and allowed us to finish third again,” added the 62-year-old.
“We have shown that without being a big club or having massive investment it is possible to do well in the Champions League with passion, good football and desire.”
“These are unlimited resources that are available to everyone.”
Atalanta will go into the game at the Estadio da Luz without Josip Ilicic.
The Slovenian scored all four goals in the 4-3 win at Valencia in the last 16 second leg that took Atalanta through 8-4 on aggregate but is missing here for personal reasons.