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Unbeaten Leverkusen face Atalanta in UEL final

Posse of ex-Prem stars prepare for Europa League battle

2024/05/22 13:42
E3

Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta go head-to-head in tonight's Europa League final - and a posse of former Premier League stars are set to battle it out as both sides try to lift the trophy for the first time. 

German champions Leverkusen enter the contest on the back of a remarkable unbeaten campaign that stretches back to the start of the season; Xabi Alonso's side yet to taste defeat in the 51 games they have played thus far in 2023/24. After winning the Bundesliga for the only time in their history, 'Die Werkself' are now aiming to add to the UEFA Cup they won in 1988, which is their only European trophy to date.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta, meanwhile, finished fifth in Serie A and have now reached their first-ever European final, thanks to a  3-1 aggregate win over Marseille in the semi-finals. Much like Leverkusen, Atalanta know a thing or two about trophy droughts - the Italian club winning just one piece of silverware (the 1963 Coppa Italia) in their 116 years of existence. 

The game promises to be a fascinating tactical battle between Alonso and Gasperini, and there are intriguing sub-plots involving a number of players - some familiar, some less so - previously on the books of clubs in the English top flight. 


Leverkusen

Granit Xhaka - For a player who had his detractors at Arsenal before becoming a cult hero in north London, Granit Xhaka has consolidated his reputation as a top class operator at Leverkusen this season. 

Able to dictate tempo with his passing and break up play defensively, Xhaka is a key figure for Alonso's unbeaten outfit - and Leverkusen's fairytale success this season has fully justified his decision to leave the Gunners last summer. 

Jeremie Frimpong - The former Manchester City academy graduate never made the grade at the Etihad, but after catching the eye at Celtic, the 23-year-old full-back has well and truly flourished at Leverkusen and along with his counterpart on the left flank - Alex Grimaldo - he is one half of the most productive full-back pairing in Europe this season. 

With 14 goals and 10 assists across all competitions this term, Frimpong has been in sensational form and Atalanta will no doubt have to keep him and Grimaldo quiet if they are to entertain hopes of lifting the trophy tonight. 

Nathan Tella - After coming through the ranks at Arsenal's academy, Tella's professional career has blossomed in a staggeringly short period of time. 

After making 44 appearances for Southampton, the forward spearheaded Burnley's successful promotion push in the Championship under Vincent Kompany last season, and he has played an important part - albeit often off the bench - for Leverkusen this term. With seven goals to his name this season, Tella will hope he has a goal or two up his sleeve between now and the end of the campaign. 

Matej Kovar - On the books at Manchester United as recently as last season, the former Burton Albion and Swindon Town loanee is set to line up between the sticks for Leverkusen tonight at the Dublin Arena, as he has featured in 11 of their 12 Europa League games to date despite deputising for number one Lukas Hradecky in the Bundesliga. 

In total, Kovár has played 16 games for Leverkusen this season conceding, on average, less than a goal a game. 


Atalanta

Ademola Lookman - The former England youth star, who is now a full Nigeria international, has made a big impact at Atalanta since joining them from RB Leipzig prior to the 2022/23 season. 

With 42 goal involvements (27 goals and 15 assists) for the Serie A side over the past two campaigns, Lookman is a key man for the Italians and he has scored important goals for the Nerazzurri in the knockout stages of the Europa League this season, against Sporting in the last 16 and Marseille at the semi-final stage. 

Gianluca Scamacca - Although he didn't pull up any trees during his short time at West Ham, the 25-year-old Italy international showed flashes of his potential during his time in East London, and he has enjoyed a strong season back in his homeland this term. 

Eighteen goals and seven assists across all competitions have signalled a return to form for Scamacca, whose time at the Hammers was curtailed by a knee injury, and he has been key in this Europa League run - netting in all but one of Atalanta's knockout games! 

Davide Zappacosta - The former Chelsea man has racked up 140 games for Atalanta since joining them from the Blues three seasons ago. 

Although he may not start this evening, the 31-year-old is a polished performer and may feature at some point. 

Marten de Roon (out) - The former Middlesbrough midfielder has been a central figure for Atalanta since joining them from Boro back in the 2017/18 season - but will miss Wednesday's final with a hamstring injury. 

The Dutchman has made an impressive 345 appearances for the Italian club, netting 17 goals. Speaking ahead of the final, the 33-year-old stated that Atalanta will certainly not be daunted by taking on Xabi Alonso's crop of 'Invincibles'. 

 "Every team is beatable. At the moment, [Leverkusen] seem unbeatable, but maybe we are the ones who can change that," he said in the pre-match press conference.

Sead Kolasinac (out) - Unfortunately for the Bosnia international and former Arsenal defender, Kolasinac has been ruled out of the showdown with Leverkusen by injury. 

The imposing centre-half made 117 appearances for the Gunners between 2017 and 2021 and he has featured in 42 games for Atalanta this term. However, a muscle injury sustained in the 1-1 first-leg draw against Marseille in the semi-finals of the competition have ruled him out of contention for tonight's Europa League final. 

 



Switzerland
Granit Xhaka
NameGranit Xhaka
Born/Age1992-09-27(31 -yrs-old)
Nationality
Switzerland
Switzerland
Dual Nationality
Albania
Albania
PositionMidfielder (Defensive Midfielder)

Photos(49)

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2024-05-23 17h08m by PaulaHub
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JR
2024-05-22 14h39m by jreedmanbrst
They have been the surprise package of the competition, scoring a whopping 12 goals in the two-legged ties.

Wow, what a final! Excited to see former Premier League stars battle it out for the Europa League trophy. Let's go Leverkusen!
2024-05-22 14h20m by ocollinsworth
The Italian side has been a breath of fresh air in European competitions this season, playing an attractive and attacking brand of football.

As a football fan, I am so excited to see these two teams go head-to-head in the Europa League final. Both Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta have had incredible seasons and it's amazing to see them both make it this far in the competition. I can't wait to see which team will come out on top and lift the trophy for the first time

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