Gian Piero Gasperini admits it would be a "huge disappointment" if Atalanta failed to qualify for the Champions League, despite surpassing all expectations this season.
Atalanta are third in Serie A going into Sunday's final round of matches, meaning victory against Sassuolo would secure a place in Europe's elite club competition next season.
But Gasperini's men could be caught by both Inter - in the final Champions League spot - and fifth-placed AC Milan, leaving the coach wary of a setback.
Atalanta lost the Coppa Italia final to Lazio earlier this month and Gasperini does not want a repeat.
"I must admit, if we don't make it into the Champions League now, it'll be a huge disappointment," he told a news conference. "Losing the Coppa Italia final was hard to swallow, too.
"It all depends on us. We won't have to listen for news from other stadiums if we do our job. Our fate is in our own hands and we could even finish third.
"Just fourth seemed almost impossible, so imagine third!"
Atalanta have scored more goals than any other side in Serie A this season, with Gasperini earning plaudits for their thrilling style of play.
But the coach is keen to deflect any praise on to his players, adding: "They have been extraordinary and all the compliments I have received should be passed on to them.
"We've been very consistent with both results and performances. We picked up a lot of points and scored a lot of goals.
"People say we are entertaining to watch, but ultimately the results are what matter. We've beaten bigger clubs and it felt like a constant fightback because we started so badly [winning one of their first eight matches].
"This is certainly a side with quality, as we scored 100 goals in all competitions."
Inter host Empoli on Sunday, while Milan go to SPAL.