Canaries set for difficult home friendly against Champions League qualifiers Atalanta

Gian Piero Gasperini led Atalanta to third place in Serie A last season Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Gian Piero Gasperini led Atalanta to third place in Serie A last season Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

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Pre-season will move up another gear for Norwich City this evening, with a potentially difficult encounter against Champions League qualifiers Atalanta (7pm) - who enjoyed a superb previous season.

The Italian side claimed their highest ever finish in Serie A of third place, a full 21 places behind champions Juventus but out-scoring the Old Lady with 77 goals as the league's top scorers.

That was thanks, in large part, to Colombia striker Duván Zapata finishing as the second highest scorer with 23 goals in the league and 28 in 48 games overall.

The former Napoli striker is on a two-year loan from Sampdoria and also helped the Bergamo club - who were in Serie B as recently as 2011 - to reach the Coppa Italia final for just the fourth time in their history, only to suffer their third defeat, losing 2-0 to Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

That all unfolded despite a disappointing start to the season which saw the Nerazzurri crash out of the Europa League in the final qualifying stage, losing on penalties to Copenhagen.

Former Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon, left, in action for Holland, is a key player for Atalanta Picture: Mike Egerton/PA WireFormer Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon, left, in action for Holland, is a key player for Atalanta Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Yet Gian Piero Gasperini, who previously had spells in charge of Inter Milan and Palermo, managed to engineer a remarkable season.

They head to Carrow Road looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2-1 friendly loss to Swansea in Wales on Saturday though, when they allowed a lead to slip.

Slovenia star Josip Ilicic's left-footed strike from 20 yards had given the tourists the lead and they should have been well in control, only for Ilicic to be denied by a good save and for Belgium international Timothy Castagne to hit a post.

The Championship side then hit back with two goals in five minutes shortly after the hour mark, with Hans Hateboer scoring an unfortunate own goal before Connor Roberts headed home the winner for the Swans.

Since last season Atalanta have sold midfielders Franck Kessié to AC Milan for a reported £21m and Bryan Cristante to Roma for around £19m.

But they have splashed £13m on another Colombian forward, Luis Muriel from Sevilla, and £12m on Ukranian midfielder Ruslan Malinovsky, who was playing for Genk in Belgium - as they prepare to mix it with the big boys in the Champions League.

Josip Ilicic, left, in action fro Slovenia, scored as Atalanta were beaten 2-1 at Swansea at the weekend Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireJosip Ilicic, left, in action fro Slovenia, scored as Atalanta were beaten 2-1 at Swansea at the weekend Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

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