Marseille v Atletico Madrid
Wednesday 16 May, 19:45
Live on BT Sport

Marseille keen to escape the shadow of PSG

The Europa League final's staging in Lyon has added to the sense that French football is getting behind Marseille's efforts to become the country's first winner of this competition. Mighty PSG may have dominated the domestic scene (they won Ligue 1, the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue), but their involvement in continental competition ended months ago. It is Marseille who have been flying Le Tricolore with distinction.
Under the astute guidance of experienced coach Rudi Garcia, Marseille have come through some tricky ties to get this far. They blew away Sporting Braga and Athletic Club, but then faced two Red Bull-backed entities. They mounted a stirring comeback in the last eight against RB Leipzig, and then resisted one in the semis against Salzburg.
Marseille have shown a variety of qualities to get this far. Versatile Brazilian Luiz Gustavohas often excelled when pressed into service as a centre-back, and rampaging right-back Bouna Sarr has really caught the eye. Further forward, Dimitri Payet has sparkled (three goals and seven assists in the UEL), while Florian Thauvin is in the form of his life. If you combine Thauvin's performances in Ligue 1 and the Europa League, he has scored 25 goals and set up 13 more.
Payet is an injury doubt after missing the 3-3 draw with Guingamp, and his absence would be a huge blow. Centre-back Rolando and striker Kostas Mitroglou are also racing against time to prove their fitness. If Rolando misses out, Luiz Gustavo will play in defence, while Valere Germain is a credible alternative to Mitroglou.

Atleti aim to mitigate historic heartbreak

There aren't many groups of players who could twice come back from losing a Champions League final to their bitterest rivals, but Atletico Madrid is no ordinary club, and Diego Simeone is no ordinary coach. He has developed a squad that has extraordinary mental strength, but now the pressure is on them again in a European final, and this time they are favourites.
Since dropping out of the Champions League after an unusually poor group-stage campaign, Atleti have taken the Europa League very seriously, with Simeone choosing his strongest available line-up more often than not. They breezed past Copenhagen and Lokomotiv Moscow, and then came through a tight quarter-finals against Portuguese giants Sporting and edged out Arsenal in the final four. The first leg at the Emirates was a classic display of Atleti's grit and determination, as they kept the Gunners at arm's length after the early sending-off of defender Sime Vrsaljko, and then delivered a late sucker-punch as Antoine Griezmann plundered an away goal. From that moment on, Atleti's 1-0 win in the second leg had a sense of inevitability about it.
There has been plenty of focus on Griezmann, with many speculating that it could be his final match for Los Colchoneros before he moves to La Liga title rivals Barcelona. The Frenchman certainly hasn't been distracted by the transfer talk - he has been involved in six goals in his last nine matches, and has either scored or set up a goal in each of his last three outings.
Jose Gimenez and Vitolo have been included in the squad but neither is 100% fit, while the vastly-experienced Juanfran may be selected at right-back ahead of the returning Vrsaljko.

Atleti may well win it, but their price is too short

Regular readers of our Europa League coverage will know that I backed Atletico a few rounds ago to win the tournament at odds of 4.00, and they are now 1.73 to win the final in 90 minutes. While I think the Spanish side will eventually overcome Marseille, it might be tighter than people think, so I can't get excited about that price. One thing to consider is that Simeone will be banned from the touchline after a meltdown against Arsenal, although his larger-than-life assistant German Burgos has proved a capable stand-in.

Marseille have the magic to breach Atletico's defence

If Payet is passed fit, he and Thauvin can cause even a diligent Atleti rearguard a few problems. If you include extra time against Salzburg in the semi, Marseille have scored in each of their last eight games, but have only managed one clean sheet in that time. Their last eight matches in all competitions have featured a total of 34 goals.
With Griezmann and Diego Costa in attack, Atleti will cause the Marseille defence a few headaches too, so I'll back Both Teams To Score at 2.20.

Thauvin worth considering at a hefty price

In the To Score market, Griezmann is the clear favourite at 2.00, but Costa is a big-game player (he scored the winner in the second leg of the semi against Arsenal), so he's worth considering at 2.80.
Thauvin has been a goal machine for Marseille this season, and he has found the net in six of his last eight appearances. At odds of 4.00 to score inside 90 minutes, he's worth backing, especially when you consider he takes penalties.
Back Both Teams To Score at 2.20
Back Florian Thauvin to score at 4.00

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