Spanish outfits gun for European glory
With potent attacking talent in abundance on both sides, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao should serve up a Europa League final to remember on Wednesday and remind the continent that Spain is not just about Real Madrid or Barcelona.sports Updated: May 08, 2012 23:39 IST
With potent attacking talent in abundance on both sides, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao should serve up a Europa League final to remember on Wednesday and remind the continent that Spain is not just about Real Madrid or Barcelona.
The 2010 champions Atletico have won 11 successive matches to reach the final while fearless Athletic, who only field players of Basque origin, have lit up the competition under eccentric Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa with their possession-based style that has drawn comparisons with Barca.
Athletic made the rest of Europe take notice when they beat Manchester United home and away in the last 16, then accounted for Schalke 04 in the quarter-finals with an attacking intensity that the Bundesliga side, like United before them, could not handle.
Centre forward Fernando Llorente's physical presence is sure to cause problems for an Atletico defence that is vulnerable in the air, particularly at set pieces, while attacking midfielder Iker Muniain, only 19 and attracting the attention of bigger clubs, pulls the strings.
Atletico also boast a potent strikeforce in summer signings Adrian Lopez and Colombian Radamel Falcao.
After comfortably winning their group following a journey that began in the third qualifying round back in July, Atletico under Simeone have knocked out Lazio, Besiktas, Hanover 96 and La Liga rivals Valencia.
Diego Simeone's side will try to match Bilbao for intensity. "The sides are evenly matched. I haven't spoken to Bielsa but I admire him," he said.