Spanish sides have dominated in the Europa League for some time now as they’ve lifted the trophy in seven of the last 12 years. At the Last 32 stage, Atletico Madrid were favourites to win this year’s competition and their performances throughout the knockout stages suggest they’re even worthier favourites now. It’s a little bit more of a surprise to see Marseille here and although they defeated Spanish opponents Athletic Bilbao in the last 16, Diego Simeone’s side represent a massive step up in class on anything else they’ve faced in this competition.
Domestically, Marseille have been part of a clear top four in France but their record against those three sides is W0-D2-L4 this term as they’ve conceded 18 goals in total, and they only scored once in the three games not at the Stade Velodrome. Indeed, away from their intimidating home venue they lost to nil in three of their four Europa knockout games and although this is at a neutral venue, we think they’ll struggle to penetrate this fantastically drilled Atletico side that have kept 18 clean sheets in 30 matches against teams ranked below them in Europe since 2015/16.
Of the 14 Europa League finals since 2004 we only have one occurrence of the higher placed team in our rankings losing in 90 minutes. Those finals have finished W9-D4-L1 in favour of our higher ranked sides – including six 90-minute successes in the last seven years – with 12 of 14 lifting the trophy. Furthermore, none of those finals saw as big a difference between the two sides as we have here so we would have Atletico a fair bit shorter to win in normal time.
The Spaniards also have abundance of quality at their disposal with Koke and Saul Niguez in the midfield and Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann up front, with that duo getting the business done with a goal apiece in their semi-final clash with Arsenal. It’s the Frenchman who is the more consistent goalscorer though, with 14 in his last 16 starts, netting the last in six of the nine in which he scored.