Europa League: Atletico Madrid go from rebels to favorites against Marseille | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.05.2018
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Europa League: Atletico Madrid go from rebels to favorites against Marseille

Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa provide the attacking flair as Atletico take on Marseille in the Europa League final. While silverware could convince Griezmann to stay in Madrid, "OM" have nothing to lose.

Atletico Madrid have built a reputation under head coach Diego Simeone of being something of a rebel against the bigger, more established clubs in Spain, but if they want to convince Antoine Griezmann to stay that likely won't be a strong enough argument. However, winning silverware could be – starting with victory in the Europa League final over Olympique Marseille on Wednesday.

Unlike in the two recent Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016, when they lost to Real Madrid, they go into this clash in Lyon as the clear favorites after a strong second half of the season and an agonizing win over Arsenal in the semifinals.

In many ways Simeone's hard-working side were in their element in the way they dug out a 1-1 draw at the Emirates in London, despite having had Sime Vrsaljko  sent off early on, as well as their Argentine coach for complaining – before seeing out a 1-0 victory at home.

While often criticized as being dour and aggressive, they have gone from a stuttering, underachieving side to one who are able to hold that own against Europe's best but it is doubtful whether that will be enough to convince Griezmann to stay.

"Griezmann's future depends on what happens on Wednesday I think, what he wants is to win trophies and I was sad when I heard about the news about him," club captain Gabi Fernandez told Spanish radio on Monday. "This is my eighth final with Atleti and I think the team is really motivated, we need to win."

Certainly it is true that there is more to Atletico's style of play than simply being solid and counter-attacking with expansive ball players like Koke and Saul in midfield, and they will be able to take the game to Marseille.

Marseille not to be underestimated

The French side, on the other hand, are looking to win the Europa League for the first time and while they had an easier road to the final, having overcoming Salzburg, they should not be dismissed, especially given the attacking flair offered by Dmitri Payet and Florian Thauvin.

Marseille are looking to continue the progress made under coach Rudi Garcia and American owner Frank McCourt, who has invested €118 million ($140 million) in the club since his arrival in late 2016. The final for the port city club is a glamor clash and there is a general feeling at there that given the pedigree of Atletico, they go into the game with nothing to lose.

"This is our first full season with Marseille and we did not expect to reach the Europa League final or qualify for the Champions League," the club's president, Jacques-Henri Eyraud said.  "We have won more than we expected, but we are continuing to rebuild the club under a plan that will take several seasons."

One thing Marseille do have on their side is experience, with Thauvin and Payet having played in the Premier League while Luiz Gustavo and Adil Rami also have plenty of big matches under their belts. So as they head into Wednesday night's final in Lyon, there is reason for cautious optimism in Marseille that they can win their first European trophy since their Champions League victory in 1993.

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