Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone will be able to count with a close-to full-strength side to confront the final, as Colombian defender Luis Perea and captain Antonio Lopez have recovered from injury just in time for the game. However, Portuguese defender Tiago will miss the game due to suspension, while his compatriot Silvio has been ruled out until next season. Another player who won't feature is Fran Merida, who is cup-tied.
Like his counterpart, Marcelo Bielsa faces few significant absences, as while Xabier Castillo and Aitor Ocio had been discarded due to injury a while ago, Fernando Amorebieta faces a late fitness test and is expected to make his return. Strikers Iker Muniain and Fernando Llorente were rested for the weekend’s goalless draw with Getafe, and will reinforce the side.
Atletico Madrid: Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe, Suarez, Gabi, Adrian, Diego, Turan and Falcao.
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz, Iraola, Martinez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe, De Marcos, Iturraspe, Herrera, Susaeta, Llorente and Muniain.
Los Colchoneros come into the decider with an impressive 11-game Europa League winning streak on their backs. Their last defeat came in the group stage against Udinese. Their league form has also been quite impressive, as they are unbeaten in their last four encounters.
Rivals Athletic don’t enjoy such flattering statistics, as they have just won four of their last 11 games in all competitions. In fact, they haven’t won in their last three outings, with their last win coming in late April, when they beat Sporting Lisbon to reach the final.
The teams have never met in European competition; therefore Wednesday’s final will be the first official international meeting between the clubs. However, they have clashed 150 times in Spain’s domestic competition, with Atletico narrowly edging their rivals, with 64 wins to Athletic’s 59. When the teams last met in March, Atletico won 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon, but prior to that Athletic enjoyed a 3-0 win in San Mames.
Radamel Falcao: The Colombian striker leads the Europa League scoring charts with ten goals and will definitely be Atletico’s deadliest weapon, as he is as much of a threat in the air as he is on the ground. The 26-year-old has already won the competition once, as when playing for FC Porto he scored the only goal of the 2010-11 final against Sporting Braga. Falcao converted a record 17 goals in Porto’s triumphant campaign.
Fernando Llorente: The Spanish international confronts the final fresh like a lettuce, as Bielsa decided to rest him on the weekend so that he could be at his very best for the title decider. Standing at 1.95 metres, Llorente is clearly an aerial threat, and his height could cause Atletico serious problems. It was the striker’s last-gasp winner that sent the Basques to the final of the competition at the expense of Sporting Lisbon.
Expect an extremely free-flowing encounter between two attacking-minded teams who will play their hearts out to inflict defeat upon one another. There’s no doubt that Simeone’s side come into the clash as the favourites, not only because they won the competition two years ago, but because they have won 11 consecutive games in the competition and are also in good form in the league. But don’t count out Bielsa’s Athletic, who will be desperate to win the first European competition of their entire history.
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao
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