Mark O'Haire: Europa League Final Preview

5 min

Spanish sides have dominated the European scene this decade, clinching 12 (60%) of the past 20 Champions League and Europa League titles, and Atletico Madrid appear well-placed to extend that streak on Wednesday night.

Diego Simeone’s side were parachuted into Europa League favouritism after surprisingly exiting the Champions League at the group-stage. And the second-placed side in La Liga are odds-on to justify their position as market leaders by taking top honours in Lyon this midweek.

Los Colchoneros – two-time Europa League champions – are famed for their phenomenal defence.

Atleti leaked just four goals in eight encounters en-route to the final, never shipping more than a solitary strike despite tricky tips to FC Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow, Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal.

Simeone opted to field his first XI in an unconvincing 1-0 triumph at Getafe on Saturday but the Atleti boss has a couple of question marks over his defence. Sime Vrsaljko returns from suspension; even so, the experienced Juanfran may continue at right-back. Meanwhile, Stefan Savic may start at centre-half should Jose Gimenez fail to recover from a knock.

Elsewhere, Atletico appear primed, ready and should be capable of honouring their 1.73 odds in the Match Odds.

The Spaniards boast an abundance of quality in midfield with homegrown Koke and Saul Niguez, plus the outstanding attacking talents of Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann up front.

Los Colchoneros’ record on the road in Europe isn’t particularly impressive this term – two triumphs from seven across Champions and Europa League action – although opponents Marseille have hardly fared any better in games as guests.

The French outfit have been beaten ‘to nil’ in three of their four away knockout ties, tasting victory once in nine outside of their Stade Velodrome base in continental competition this season. That success came away at an injury-hit and out-of-sorts Athletic Bilbao side earlier this year.

It’s a familiar theme domestically. Rudi Garcia’s group have tended to wilt when taking on Ligue 1’s elite this term, returning W0-D2-L4 against PSG, Monaco and Lyon, conceding 18 goals.

In Marseille’s three trips to the top three, they’ve managed just one goal.

It’s last chance saloon for Les Olympiens. A 3-3 draw at Guingamp on Friday night means Marseille are three points adrift of third-placed Monaco in Ligue 1 with one match to play – only the top three qualify for Champions League competition next term, piling the pressure on here.

With the likes of Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin and Valerie Germain in fine form, Garcia’s men have the ability to upset the odds in their first European final appearance since 2004.

However, there are concerns about a defence that might also be missing Rolando at centre-back with Luiz Gustavo in line to cover.

La Liga clubs have lifted the Europa League trophy in seven of the last 12 years, while nine of the past 14 finals were won in 90 minutes by the higher placed team in the pre-match rankings.

Atletico’s experience should prove pivotal in Lyon and Simeone’s side can justify their odds-on quotes with a victory.

Recommended Bet:

Atletico Madrid to win (1.73)