Attack-minded Atalanta struggling to score goals

MILAN (AP) — Atalanta has lost its scoring touch.

The Italian club, which drew plaudits from around Europe last season for its attacking style during an unexpected run to the Champions League quarterfinals, has scored only one goal in its past three league matches.

“We’re playing well in defense and midfield, we’re missing something in attack,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. “We’re struggling, there’s tiredness and a lack of shape and when you don’t manage to finish off chances that you create then nervousness sets in, too.”

After a 1-1 draw on Tuesday against FC Midtjylland in the Champions League, Atalanta travels to Udinese in Serie A on Sunday.

Atalanta’s free-flowing brand of soccer is well-known in Italy — the team topped the scoring chart the past two seasons. But against Danish club Midtjylland, which earned its first ever point in the Champions League with the draw, Atalanta had 18 chances but only scored when center back Cristian Romero headed in a late equalizer.

“It’s clear that it’s up front where you lift the level of the team’s performance,” Gasperini said. “We had chances, fortunately Romero scored, maybe I should play him up front.”

Atalanta has won only one of its past six matches in all competitions, a 2-0 victory at Liverpool. And it might not get any easier at Udinese, which has only allowed one goal in its past three matches.

Gasperini will also need to smooth things over with captain Alejandro “Papu” Gómez. The pair had a confrontation during the first half of Tuesday’s match when Gasperini ordered the player to stay on the right and Gómez replied with a “No” that could be clearly heard in an empty Gewiss Stadium.

Gómez didn’t return for the second half.

Italian media reported that the pair have patched things up and that there will be no consequences for Gómez, who has consistently been one of Atalanta’s top players over the past few seasons.

All Gasperini would say after the match was “I didn’t like his performance.”

After the match against Udinese, Atalanta visits Ajax needing a point to advance in the Champions League. It then faces tricky league matches against Fiorentina, Juventus and Roma.

“Things also aren’t going our way but I don’t want that to be an excuse, I’m not looking for excuses,” Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina said. “The only excuse we can have is that we are training little because having so many matches you can train very little.

“At the end you bring onto the field what you do in training. If you train little then it’s difficult to bring that onto the field. But we’ll do our best, because we know how to do that and we’ve showed that, so we’ll do it.”

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