Atletico Madrid’s defensive solidity and experience in European competition should give them an edge over Marseille when the two sides meet in the 2017-18 Europa League final at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais (7.45pm Wednesday).
It is a first European final for Marseille since 2004 and only the fourth in the club’s history. Atletico won the Europa League in 2010 and 2012 and have since reached two Champions League finals – both lost to city rivals Real Madrid.
It is an indication of the steady progress Marseille have made since their takeover by the American Frank McCourt in 2016 and the subsequent appointment of Rudi Garcia as head coach that they have been able to balance a good European run with a strong challenge for a top-three finish in France. Order now seems to be overtaking the chaos of recent years.
Garcia’s side did concede potentially decisive ground to Lyon and Monaco in the battle for the two remaining Champions League qualifying spots in France with a 3-3 draw away to Guingamp on Friday. They went two up early on through Valere Germain and Florian Thauvin, only for their hosts to turn things around and fire themselves into a 3-2 lead before Thauvin struck again late on to earn the 10 men of Marseille a point.
Those contributions upped Thauvin’s tally for the season to 25 goals and 13 assists in league and Europa League play. The 25-year-old has very much regained his form after his disastrous half-season spell at Newcastle a couple of seasons ago and is now a key part of an attack that also features the creative talents of former West Ham man Dimitri Payet. Marseille have averaged two goals a match through the Europa League knockout rounds.
They are not, though, as impressive defensively. Marseille have conceded over a goal per match in league play this season and have shown a certain degree of vulnerability during their progress to the Europa League final.
Marseille’s campaign began way back in July, where they defeated Oostende in the third qualifying round. Victory over Domzale in the playoff round was then followed by coming second to Red Bull Salzburg in Group I. Their subsequent progress has been more impressive, with triumphs over Braga, Athletic Bilbao, RB Leipzig and then their group conquerors Salzburg, securing them a place in Wednesday’s final.
In contrast, Atletico Madrid began the season in the Champions League and were only parachuted into the Europa League at the turn of the year after finishing third in their group. They defeated Arsenal 2-1 on aggregate in their semi-final after seeing off Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow and Sporting in the previous knockout rounds.
The manner in which Atletico have made it through to the final provides clear evidence of their defensive strength. They have conceded just four times in eight knockout matches and never more than once in a single match. That matches their performances in Spain this season, where they have only conceded marginally more than a goal every two matches. A well-organised defensive unit is allied to an outstanding goalkeeper in Jan Oblak.
Going forward, they are heavily reliant on the creative and goalscoring abilities of Antoine Griezmann, although the January arrival of the snarling, ex-Chelsea striker Diego Costa has provided another nuisance for opposing defences. One or the other of them had a direct hand in all four of goals Atletico scored in their quarter-final and semi-final triumphs.
Diego Simeone will not be there on the sidelines to urge his team on in Lyon after receiving a four-match touchline ban following his sending off in the first leg of the semi-final against Arsenal. He did, though, watch on from close quarters on Saturday as his side warmed up for the final with a 1-0 win away to Getafe. Koke got the decisive goal early on.
Arguments can certainly be made in Marseille’s favour, but all the bookies agree that Atletico should be considered favourites. They are around 4/6 in the match betting and 1/3 to lift the trophy. Their approach is well-suited to knockout football and one-off occasions, and they have enough quality in forward areas to take advantage of Marseille’s relative defensive deficiencies. Six years after they last lifted the Europa League trophy, Atletico and Simeone can be expected to do so again on Wednesday.
Our Preview’s Marseille vs. Atletico Madrid Betting Tips Verdict
- Bet on Atletico Madrid -1 goal on the Asian Handicap @ 5/4 with BetVictor.