Luis Muriel has moved beyond his 'super-sub' role with a rich vein of form to boost Atalanta's hopes against Real Madrid in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie in Bergamo on Wednesday.
Colombian ace Muriel scored and set up countryman Duvan Zapata for another as Atalanta warmed up for the Spanish champions with a 4-2 win over Napoli to move up to fifth in Serie A at the weekend.
"Muriel is extraordinary, not only for the assist and the goal," said coach Gian Piero Gasperini after the forward scored in a ninth consecutive Serie A appearance as a starter.
"This year he has shown extraordinary mental, physical and athletic form, he has made a terrific leap in quality also in terms of consistency."
The 29-year-old is having the best campaign of his career with 17 goals so far including two in the Champions League group stages.
In his debut season, Muriel earned a reputation as a super-sub, scoring 18 Serie A goals despite only starting 10 matches.
This season he has scored 14 league goals, the same as AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and behind Cristiano Ronaldo (18) for Juventus and Inter's Romelu Lukaku (17). Interestingly, only one of Muriel's goals have been from the spot.
"The coach is giving me space and more playing time lately so I want to make the most of it," said Muriel, who has scored 36 goals in 71 games for Atalanta.