Soccer-Atalanta must focus on qualifying for Europe says Gasperini

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Lecce v Atalanta - Stadio Via del mare, Lecce, Italy - November 9, 2022 Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini reacts REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

(Reuters) - Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini is targeting a return to European competition as his in-form Serie A side battle for a place in the top four this season.

Atalanta are sixth on 35 points after 19 games, three points behind AC Milan in second but 15 adrift of leaders Napoli before Gasperini's men host second-bottom Sampdoria on Saturday.

Atalanta have scored the most goals in the top 10 European Leagues so far this year and are bidding for a European spot after missing out on continental competition this season.

"The Scudetto would be rather difficult, but we have to try for Europe," Gasperini told reporters on Friday.

"At least we know that we’ve got Serie A safety locked down! We are only midway through and the only side that has been miles ahead of the rest is Napoli. We certainly feel more confident than a few months ago."

Atalanta visit Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals on Tuesday but Gasperini said he will not be thinking about that match until after Saturday's game.

"Sampdoria are tough, and it's crucial we focus on them, without thinking about Inter. I won’t rotate the squad tomorrow because with five substitutions someone can come off if they are tired," he said.

Gasperini was not too concerned about his defence despite them conceding three goals in a 3-3 draw at Juventus on Sunday.

"I am not worried, especially as we have been up against some very strong sides lately. What interests me is that we continue to score goals, as that is the best way to win games."

(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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