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Who Will Come Out on Top in the Europa League Final: Atalanta or Bayer Leverkusen?




2024 Europa League Final Preview: Atalanta vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Date: May 22, 2024 K.O: 8pm (BST)

Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Rep. of Ireland.



In what promises to be an exhilarating end to this season’s Europa League campaign, two unfancied teams at the start of the competition, have reached the final with a mixture of tactical prowess and attacking flair which has been noted on both managers since their first group game back in September.


Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen are set to lock horns in the UEFA Europa League final tonight which brings with it a refreshing change to the usual addition of a Spanish side in this final. Sevilla have dominated the competition by winning 7 of the last 1 Europa League finals. Roma lost the 2023 final last year and German side Eintracht Frankfurt won the 2022 edition of the competition.


Both teams have navigated through a maze of opponents to reach this stage; Atalanta disposing of sides such as Sporting, Liverpool and Marseille in the knockout rounds. Leverkusen had the task of getting past Qarabag, West Ham and Roma to reach this final and now, the culmination of their journey awaits under the floodlights of Stade de Lyon.



Atalanta's Rise


Atalanta has emerged as a dominant force in Italy and European football in recent years having appeared in the Champions League and now reaching a major European final in the Europa League. With their attacking style of play earning them plaudits across Europe, under the astute guidance of their manager Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta has transformed into a team that thrives on high-tempo pressing and fluid attacking movements.


Spearheaded by the likes of Gianluca Scamacca, Teun Koopmeiners, Ademola Lookman, and Charles De Ketelaere, Atalanta's frontline possesses the potency to dismantle even the sternest of defences.



Probable starting XI. (courtesy of Sofascore.com)




Bayer Leverkusen's Resurgence


On the other hand, Bayer Leverkusen has experienced a resurgence of their own under the stewardship of their manager, Xabi Alonso. Having taken over with the club second bottom of the Bundesliga after the first 8 games of the 2022/2023 season, it is remarkable that he has gone the 2023/2024 season in his first full season as a manager, unbeaten and two games away (they’re currently 51 games unbeaten with a German cup fina to play) from winning the Europa League. Should he lift the trophy tonight he will become the first manager in the top 5 European leagues to take a club an entire season undefeated in every competition they’ve entered.



Probable starting XI. (courtesy of Sofascore.com)



Leverkusen's blend of youthful exuberance and experienced campaigners has seen them conquer formidable opponents on their path to the final. It can’t be understated what an amazing job the Spanish manager has done with this team with talents like Florian Wirtz and Victor Boniface and Ezequiel Palacios leading the charge. Leverkusen boasts an attacking arsenal capable of unlocking any defence, even beyond 90 minutes as seen by their numerous last minute goals these last few months.



Xabi Alonso lifts Bayern Leverkusen's first ever Bundesliga title.



The Key Battles


The final brings with it several intriguing battles across the pitch. In midfield, the clash between Atalanta's relentless ball-winners and Leverkusen's technicians will be pivotal in dictating the flow of the game. The Italian club will unfortunately miss Belgian Martin De Roon from their side. The midfielder-come-defender in recent times was taken off during last week’s Coppa Italia final defeat to Juventus with an injury he duly confirmed on his social media channels, Giorgio Scalvini the likely replacement for this match.


This means that at the back, a rejig is needed to replace De Roon in their back three however stalwarts such as Swede Isaak Hein and Albanian Berat Djimsiti should retain their pace. Both teams will rely on their defensive solidity to thwart the quality in the opposition's attacking threats with every tackle and interception potentially shaping the outcome of the match given how well both teams have been defensively.


Leverkusen will be weary on the flanks with Gasperini’s preference with 5 in midfield. The likes of Jeremie Frimpong, and Alejandro Grimaldo (who has been an absolute sensation on that left flank for the German side) will have to be at the top of their game to claim a victory in this final defensively, as well as in the attacking transitions.



Prediction


Predicting a winner in such a closely contested final is a daunting task. However, with their attacking prowess and experience in navigating high-stakes encounters, I’m sticking my neck out and claiming that Atalanta may just edge past Bayer Leverkusen to lift the UEFA Europa League trophy, as controversial as that may sound. This might be one match too many for the favored Bundesliga outfit


With everything on the line, football fans around the globe eagerly anticipate what promises to be a spectacle of the highest order as Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen battle for European glory in the Aviva Stadium this evening.

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