Spanish sides have won five of the last seven UEFA Europa League finals and Atletico Madrid, which has won two of those title deciders, can improve the already impressive statistics of the Spanish Primera Division with a normal-time victory over Marseille on Wednesday.
The UEFA Europa League final will take place three hours north of Marseille in Lyon but one does not think that it will feel like a home match for OM. Cup finals at neutral venues are more akin to away games than home games and the road record of Marseille does not read well, both versus French Ligue 1’s top teams and UEFA Europa League sides. Marseille’s away numbers in the UEFA Europa League group stage and knockout stage were a poor 1-1-5 and, in French Ligue 1, OM lost by at least two goals at first-ranked Paris Saint-Germain, second-ranked Monaco and third-ranked Lyon.
It has been a testing week for Marseille, which is eager to qualify for the UEFA Champions League through either French Ligue 1 or the UEFA Europa League. Marseille drew 3-3 at Guingamp on Friday so it will go into the final round of French Ligue 1 in fourth place, needing help from other teams to climb back into the top three. The odds are that Marseille will not leapfrog Monaco and/or Lyon so OM will have a lot of pressure when they tackle Atletico Madrid.
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Pressure is something that Atletico Madrid handles better than most sides, and the Mattressmakers’ defence is tighter than the lid of a jam jar that has been closed by a heavyweight boxer and left in the refrigerator for several months. Atletico has booked its berth in the UEFA Champions League via the Spanish Primera Division so, while there is a major trophy on the line in Lyon, the result of Wednesday’s match does not have layers of significance for the Mattressmakers.
Bookmakers have chalked up Atletico Madrid as the clear UEFA Europa League final favourite and that is fair enough but a word of caution: both Marseille and the Mattressmakers have faced Athletic home and away this season and, according to one’s collateral form analysis, their respective results are equal. What leads one to rate Atletico ahead of Marseille, though, is that the Mattressmakers have performed better in their toughest tests than OM have. For example, Atletico was 1-4-1 in its Spanish Primera Division games against first-ranked Barcelona, third-ranked Real Madrid and fourth-ranked Villarreal, whereas Marseille was 0-2-4 versus its three highest ranked opponents. Furthermore, Atletico kept four clean sheets and conceded just two goals in those six Spanish Primera Division blockbusters, whereas Marseille let in at least two goals in each of those half a dozen French Ligue 1 massive matches and leaked 17 in total.
You can get better odds about Atletico Madrid scoring over one and a half goals in normal time of the UEFA Europa League final than winning the game in regulation so that rates as an even more appealing wager at +100 with BetVictor than the basic one. The knockout nature of the fixture means that Marseille will have to throw caution to the wind if Atletico hits the front and few teams are more effective on the break than the Mattressmakers. Absorbing pressure and turning defence into attack has been Atletico’s trademark under Diego Simeone.
Of a more exotic nature, you can take a punt on Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez receiving either a yellow card or a red card in the UEFA Europa League final at odds of +230 with BetVictor. Bjorn Kuipers will referee the championship match and he is likely to show about five cards in normal time if his history is any guide. Saul is Atletico’s primary central defensive midfielder, he makes more challenges than anyone else in the red and white stripes of the Mattressmakers and he has been a regular offender in various competitions this term – he has been cautioned three times in seven UEFA Europa League appearances and nine times in 34 Spanish Primera Division outings. Saul is Atletico’s naughtiest player and, if someone needs to clamp down on Marseille key man Dimitri Payet at a critical point, he will not hesitate to put his body on the line and take some punishment for his side.
Atletico Madrid to score over 1.5 goals
Wednesday 16th May, 19:45 GMT
Saul Niguez to receive a card
Wednesday 16th May, 19:45 GMT