Atalanta are unbeaten in six Serie A matches and are part of a three-team group that sits one point behind fourth-place Milan, making their meeting in Bergamo important in the race for Champions League qualification.
Gattuso is wary of the physical prowess of the Rossoneri's opponents and wants to see a strong all-round performance to secure a potentially key result.
"We will need to wear helmets," said Gattuso. "We are playing against a top Italian team who are both physically impressive and also possess great quality.
"They play a unique style of football. It will be a difficult and crucial game and we must ensure that we're ready to play well and hold our ground.
"We must respect our opponent, playing sensibly and putting in a great performance. They press you high and look to fill the area. We must do well in both attack and defence."
Milan finished 2018 with a run of just two wins in eight Serie A matches but are unbeaten in the league this year, winning two and drawing two.
Gattuso believes the meeting with Atalanta will act as a barometer for the team's level in relation to their objectives.
"You need these type of matches, as they are ones that give you experience. It will be an important test in terms of our growth," said the head coach.
"Getting a win would send an important signal and would be key from a mental perspective.
"However, there is still a long way to go and there are plenty of points still on offer. There are no easy matches."
Should Milan qualify for the Champions League it will be the first time in five years that they have played in Europe’s elite competition.
The last time the Rossoneri played in the competition their squad still contained the likes of Kaka, Mario Balotelli and Robinho.
Since then Milan have not finished higher than sixth in the table, but are on course to place in the top four this time around, having picked up 39 points from 29 games.