Europa League Final: The Road To Lyon
The Final of the Europa League is tomorrow night at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France as Spanish side Atletico Madrid will be playing against French side Marseille for the coveted European trophy.
It has been a long campaign for both teams leading up to this final as they had different routes to the final but what was it like?
Atletico’s European campaign started off in the Champions League. They were in a group that had the likes of Chelsea and AS Roma. It was a poor Champions League’s campaign for Atleti as they won just one game in their six group games including a shock 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea.
They finished third with 7 points scoring just 5 goals and placing them in the Europa League Round of 32. In the Round of 32, they played against Danish side FC Copenhagen. They won 5-1 on aggregate with French striker Kevin Gameiro scoring two goals over the two legs. They improved in the goals department scoring 17 goals in their road to the Finals. 8 of them came in their Round of 16 tie against Lokomotiv Moscow winning 5-1 in the away leg.
The quarters and Semis showed their ability to grind out results. Their quarter-final tie was against Sporting Lisbon winning the first leg 2-0 at home. In the away leg, they lost 1-0 but went through 2-1 on aggregate thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the second leg. Their semi-final was against Arsenal which was Atleti’s biggest test yet.
In the first leg against Arsenal at the Emirates, Atletico were down to 10 early in the first half and went 1-0 down after withstanding a lot of pressure from the Gunners. However, a late equalizer from Antoine Griezmann silenced the Emirates and gave Atletico the advantage in the second leg due to the away goal. In the second leg, Atletico dominated the game winning it 1-0 and sending Atletico Madrid to their third European final in four years.
Marseille’s road to the Final was much longer than Atletico Madrid. Failing to qualify for the Champions League, they played in the third qualifying round against Belgian side Oostende winning 4-2 over the two legs.
In the Playoffs, they played against Domzale of Slovenia winning 4-1 on aggregate earning a place in the group stage. In the group stage, they finished second with Austrian Side Red Bull Salzburg topping the group. In the knock-out stages, they conceded 8 goals but made up for it scoring 16 goals in the road to the Final with Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin becoming key figures.
They played against Portuguese side Braga in the Round of 32, winning 3-1 on aggregate. In the Round of 16, they dismantled Athletic Bilbao 5-2 on aggregate with Lucas Ocampos scoring three goals. Their memorable tie in their journey will be their quarter-final match against Bundesliga side RB Leipzig. Leipzig who have Naby Keita and Timo Werner won the first leg 1-0 away making the second leg at the Stade Velodrome critical.
In the second leg, Marseille gave arguably one of best games of the Europa season beating Leipzig 5-2 going through 5-3 on aggregate. The semi-finals saw Marseille meet Red Bull Salzburg again. They got the last laugh winning the tie 3-2 on aggregate after extra time leading Marseille to their first European Final since 1993.
Both teams have the capability of winning the final. However, Atletico will go to this final as favourites but will be without Manager Diego Simeone as he is on a touchline ban. The winner of the Final will play the winner of Champions League in the European Super Cup in August.