Europa League Final: Atalanta vs. Bayer Leverkusen – Ten key things every fan should know

images 2024 05 22T120507.928
Bundesliga winners Bayer Leverkusen lock horns with Italian juggernauts Atalanta BC in the final of the 2023/24 Europa League set to be played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Bayer Leverkusen are the bookmaker’s slight favourite to power to victory in what is the eighth major European final between a German side and an Italian side and the first since the 2010 UEFA Champions League final, won 2-0 by Inter against Bayern Munich.

What are the top things fans should know ahead of the kickoff tonight?

1. Leverkusen’s Unbeaten Streak

Bayer Leverkusen come into the final with a remarkable 51-game unbeaten streak, aiming to cap an invincible season.

Xabi Alonso’s men went the whole Bundesliga campaign undefeated and remained everyone’s equal in the Europa League and the German Cup. A truly remarkable feat.

Can Atalanta end that perfect run?

2. Atalanta’s Historic Opportunity

This is Atalanta’s first-ever European final, becoming the 11th different Italian team to reach a final and first to do so for the first time since Lazio in the 1998 UEFA Cup (lost 3-0 to Inter).

This will be 60 years and 261 days since their first European game in September 1963, the longest wait for a side to play in their first European final from their first game, a record which will be eclipsed in one week by Olympiakos (64 years, 259 days – 1959-2024).

Will Atalanta break their trophyless jinx?

3. Leverkusen’s Treble Ambition

Already Bundesliga champions, Leverkusen are targeting a historic treble. A win in Dublin would set them up to compete for the DFB-Pokal three days later.

No team in Europe has ever completed a continental treble with an unbeaten record.

4. Managerial Showdown

The tactical battle from the bench features the experienced Italian gaffer Gian Piero Gasperini and Spanish tactician Xabi Alonso.

Gasperini is in his first European final at 66 and he will be aiming to outwit Alonso, who is the youngest coach to lead a UEFA finalist since 2012.

5. Florian Wirtz’s Impact

Bayer Leverkusen’s 21-year-old star Florian Wirtz, with 18 goals and 19 assists this season is the player to watch for the Germans.

Recently recovering from a thigh injury, his fitness and form will be vital for Leverkusen’s attacking prowess.

6. Atalanta’s Solid Core

Despite their attacking reputation, Atalanta have been defensively solid in Europe, allowing only 2.8 shots on target per game, the best ratio in the competition.

The Serie A campaigners are hard to beat on their day. They head into the Europa League final having won seven of their last nine matches across all competitions.

The Italian side progressed past Marseille by an aggregate score of 4-1 in the semi-finals, after they knocked out Liverpool in the previous round.

7. Leverkusen’s Comeback Kings

Bayer Leverkusen have shown incredible resilience and a never-give-up attitude the likes of which have never been seen with such regularity.

They have overturned 1-0, and 2-0 deficits to draws and victories more times than you can count fingers on two hands.

They fought back from losing position in the last 16 against Qarabag and a last-minute comeback against Roma in the semifinals.

8. Neverkusen no more?

Bayer Leverkusen have reached their third UEFA European final, also featuring in the two-legged 1988 UEFA Cup final against Espanyol (lost 0-3 first leg, won 3-0 second leg, won on pens) and 2002 UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid (lost 2-1).

9. Head-to-Head History

Bayer Leverkusen have faced Atalanta twice in European competition, with the Italian side winning both legs of a 2021-22 UEFA Europa League last-16 tie.

Bayer have only faced Internazionale more often while losing every game in major European competition (three defeats in three games).

10. Squad News

Atalanta will miss captain Rafael Toloi and Marten De Roon due to injuries, while Leverkusen’s key players, including Piero Hincapie and Granit Xhaka, return, adding depth to their squad.

Nigeria’s Ademola Lookman and Italian forward Gianluca Scamacca have 20 Serie A goals between them and will lead the attack for Atalanta.

Victor Boniface would be the attacking focal point for Bayer after the youngster won the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season award.

This final promises a thrilling clash of objectives, with Leverkusen’s undefeated season and Atalanta’s historic quest setting the stage for a memorable night in Dublin.