Gasperini wants to send message to rivals PSG with historic second place


Milan (AFP)

Gian Piero Gasperini urged Atalanta on Monday to seal second spot in Serie A to send a strong message to Champions League quarter-final opponents Paris Saint-Germain.

"We're masters of our destiny, the second place depends only on us," said coach Gasperini ahead of Tuesday's match at Parma, with their final league game against Inter Milan next weekend in Bergamo.

"Closing the championship big would be the best way to face PSG."

Atalanta have reached the Champions League last eight in their debut season, with the final rounds to be played in Portugal next month.

The Bergamo side are assured of playing next season's elite European competition and are targeting second place in the league for the first time in the club's history, after finishing third last term.

"Even if the main objective was to qualify for the Champions League, if we win both we are second, the best result ever in the history of Atalanta," said Gasperini.

Juventus have already secured a ninth straight Serie A title, but three teams are in contention for the runners-up spot -- Inter Milan, Atalanta and Lazio.

Both Atalanta and Lazio are just one point behind Antonio Conte's Inter.

Inter Milan on Tuesday host Italian Cup winners Napoli, who are in seventh, while Lazio are at home against relegated Brescia.

Gasperini praised his team for their resilience despite the difficulties since football returned in Italy on June 20 after a three-month coronavirus lockdown.

"It was really difficult for any team, playing so many games in 40 days, in this climate with the frequency of many consecutive games," he said.

"It was a heavy effort in all respects, physical and mental for all teams.

"I must say we've always shown (ourselves) to be in good shape, and also had a bit of luck that allowed us not to lose players, apart from Josip Ilicic."

Gasperini said he hopes that next season will see Serie A return closer to normal after weeks of playing behind closed doors and with stringent health regulations.

"It was a strange championship, a fragmented season," added the 62-year-old former Inter Milan, Palermo and Genoa coach.

"An exciting season until February with stadiums full of people, then this virus completely broke everyone's lives.

"We all managed to adapt. Hopefully there will be more normal conditions when we restart in September as football loses too much like this."