All roads lead to Lyon, the third largest city in France and the meeting point will be the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, known for sponsorship reasons as Groupama Stadium for the 2018 UEFA Europa Cup final match between Olympique Marseille and Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night 16th May.
This year’s Europa League final will be between two clubs with considerable continental history and pedigree, their route to the final is quite different, Atlético started their continental journey in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League while Marseille’s European campaign began in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.
The final of 2018 UEFA Europa League will be among the inaugural winners of UEFA’s two current major club competitions. Marseille was the first team to win the UEFA Champions League in 1993, while Atlético Madrid won the very first UEFA Europa League in 2010.
Olympique Marseille booked a place in the final by edging out Austrian club Salzburg 3-2 on aggregate in a closely fought semi-final encounter thanks to an extra-time away goal scored by substitute Rolando. Atlético Madrid, on the other hand, narrowly defeated Arsenal 2-1 over the two legs in their semi-final tie with former Chelsea striker Diego Costa scoring the only goal for a 1-0 win in Madrid after a 1-1 draw in north London.
Atlético Madrid are currently second on the La Liga table and has already secured a place in the group stage of 2018/19 UEFA Champions League, while Marseille are in the fourth position on the Ligue 1 table and outside the Champions League qualification position, this means Marseille may not qualify for the Champions League next season except they win the Europa League.
The two clubs have only met once in a competitive match in Europe and that was in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League group stage. Atlético Madrid then coached by Javier Aguirre defeated Eric Gerets’ Marseille 2-1 at home before forcing the French club to a goalless draw at the Stade Vélodrome.
The result helped Atlético qualify for the round of 16 of the Champions League as runners-up behind group winners Liverpool, with Marseille finishing in third and had to move over to the UEFA Cup, in which they got to the quarter-finals.
Marseille have found the going very tough against Spanish oppositions as they have won only four of their 15 UEFA competition matches against Spanish teams and losing eight in the process. However, two out of those wins came in this season’s UEFA Europa League round of 16, when they defeated Athletic Bilbao at home by 3-1 and 2-1 away to comfortably qualify for the quarterfinals.
• Marseille have won eight of their nine European home games this season but just one of the nine away from the Stade Vélodrome – that 2-1 victory in Bilbao.
• Runners-up in Group I to Salzburg, the team they eventually defeated in the semi-finals, Marseille overcame Braga 3-1 on aggregate in the round of 32 (3-0 home, 0-1 away) before eliminating Athletic and then, in the quarter-finals, RB Leipzig (0-1 away, 5-2 home).
• UEFA Cup runners-up in 1998/99 and 2003/04, Marseille have reached the UEFA Europa League final for the first time in four attempts. Their previous campaigns ended in the round of 16 (2009/10), the group stage (2012/13) and the round of 32 (2015/16).
• Marseille finished fifth in last season’s Ligue 1 and entered the UEFA Europa League in the third qualifying round, where they defeated Belgium’s Oostende 4-2 on aggregate before getting the better of Slovenian side Domžale in the playoffs (4-1). They scored only four goals in their group but have found the net 16 times in eight knockout phase encounters, taking their total in the competition proper to 20.
• Having crossed over to the UEFA Europa League after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group behind Roma and Chelsea, Atlético made light work of both FC København in the round of 32 (4-1 away, 1-0 home) and Lokomotiv Moskva in the round of 16 (3-0 home, 5-1 away). They edged out Iberian rivals Sporting CP 2-1 over two legs in the quarter-finals (2-0 home, 0-1 away) and recorded the same aggregate victory against Arsenal.
• Atlético’s record in 14 European encounters this season is W7 D5 L2. Their only defeat outside Madrid was that 1-0 loss in Lisbon against Sporting.
• UEFA Europa League champions in 2010 and 2012, Atlético are making their first appearance in the competition in five years. Since then Diego Simeone’s side has appeared in two UEFA Champions League finals and reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals in two other seasons.
• Atlético finished third in the Spanish Liga last season, and this is only the second time in eight attempts that they have failed to progress beyond the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. However, on the only other occasion, in 2009/10, they went on to win the UEFA Europa League
• Marseille have been involved in four previous major UEFA competition finals, while Atlético Madrid will be competing in their ninth – and fifth in the past nine seasons.
• Marseille’s sole victory in four major UEFA competition final appearances came in the 1992/93 UEFA Champions League with a 1-0 win against Milan in Munich.
• Atlético have won three out of eight major UEFA competition finals, the first in the 1962 European Cup Winners’ Cup (3-0 in a Stuttgart replay against Fiorentina after a 1-1 draw in Glasgow) and the other two in the UEFA Europa League – in 2010 against Fulham in Hamburg (2-1 aet) and 2012, with current coach Simeone in charge, against Athletic Club in Bucharest (3-0).
• The Spanish club has also been triumphant on both of their UEFA Super Cup appearances – 2-0 against Internazionale in 2010 and 4-1 against Chelsea, under Simeone, in 2012.
• The two clubs have also won UEFA Intertoto Cup finals – Marseille in 2005 and Atlético in 2007, the Madrid club having been defeated finalists in 2004.
• This is the ninth UEFA Europa League final. The previous eight have yielded 21 goals at an average of 2.625 per game. The biggest winning margin was Atlético’s 3-0 win against Athletic Club in 2012; the final with the most goals was Sevilla’s 3-2 victory over Dnipro in 2015.
• Simeone is the only non-European coach – indeed the only one from outside Spain and Portugal – to have won the UEFA Europa League.
• Atlético has matched Sevilla’s achievement in reaching a third UEFA Europa League final; they can now equal their Liga rivals’ feat in winning the competition for the third time.
• This is the seventh appearance by a Spanish club in the UEFA Europa League final and the first by a team from France.
• Three of the eight previous finals have been won by clubs that joined the competition in the spring after competing in the UEFA Champions League group stage – Atlético in 2010, Chelsea in 2013 and Sevilla in 2016.
• There has never been a sending-off in a UEFA Europa League final.
• Four players have scored twice in the fixture – Diego Forlán (Atlético) in 2010, Radamel Falcao (Atlético) in 2012, Carlos Bacca (Sevilla) in 2015 and Coke (Sevilla) in 2016; there has yet to be a hat-trick.
• Falcao is the only player to have scored in two UEFA Europa League finals; he also got Porto’s winner in 2011.
• No French club has ever won the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League, with Bastia (1977/78) and Bordeaux (1995/96) the only teams from France other than Marseille – beaten finalists in both 1998/99 and 2003/04 – to have gone the full distance.
• Marseille skipper Dimitri Payet has recorded seven assists in this season’s UEFA Europa League, the most in the competition.
• Adil Rami, a starter in 16 of Marseille’s 18 European encounters this term, won the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League with Sevilla, appearing in seven matches including the 3-1 final victory against Liverpool.
• Rami faced Atlético nine times during his spell in Spain with Valencia (W2 D2 L1), including both legs of the club’s 5-2 aggregate semi-final defeat in the 2012 UEFA Europa League, and Sevilla (W1 D1 L2). He also featured in both legs as Milan lost home (0-1) and away (1-4) to Atlético in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League round of 16.
• Luiz Gustavo is the only Marseille player to have started all of the team’s 14 matches in this season’s UEFA Europa League group stage and knockout phase. Bouna Sarr has also featured in all 14 games.
• This is the French club’s 19th UEFA Europa League fixture this season. It surpasses the previous longest European campaign in OM’s history – a 17-match odyssey from the UEFA Champions League qualifying phase to the UEFA Cup final in 2003/04.
• Atlético pair Vitolo and Kevin Gameiro both won the UEFA Europa League for three seasons running with Sevilla (2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16).
• Filipe Luís, Gabi, Diego Godín, Juanfran, Koke and Saúl were all at Atlético when the club won the trophy under Simeone in 2011/12, all but Saúl featuring in the final victory.
• Fernando Torres was a UEFA Europa League winner with Chelsea in 2012/13 – a year after he won the UEFA Champions League with the same club.
• Torres and Rami were Milan team-mates in the first half of 2014/15.
• Gameiro has played for three French clubs (Strasbourg 2005–08, Lorient 2008–11 and Paris Saint-Germain 2011–13), scoring four goals in 12 appearances against Marseille.
• Aymen Abdennour is on loan to Marseille from Valencia.
• Luiz Gustavo and Filipe Luís have played together for Brazil.
• Although born in Macon, just 61 km from Lyon, Griezmann has never played professional club football in his native France.
• Marseille coach Rudi Garcia has Spanish ancestry and speaks Spanish fluently.
• Atlético’s Gameiro, Griezmann and Marseille-born Lucas Hernández are French national team-mates of OM quartet Rami, Payet, Florian Thauvin and Steve Mandanda.
• Griezmann scored both goals in France’s 2-1 win against the Republic of Ireland at the Stade de Lyon in the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16, Rami and Payet playing alongside him for Les Bleus.
• Griezmann scored a spectacular goal in Real Sociedad’s 2-0 win at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland in the UEFA Champions League play-offs in August 2013.
• There is a Roman connection between the two head coaches, with Simeone having spent four seasons as a Lazio player from 1999 to 2003 and Garcia having coached Roma from 2013 to 2016.
• Simeone is serving a four-match touchline ban following his dismissal in the first leg of the semi-final at Arsenal.
• Marseille coach since October 2016, Rudi Garcia started out as a midfielder at Lille, returning to lead the club from 2008–13 and masterminding their Ligue 1/Coupe de France double triumph in 2010/11. He subsequently spent three seasons in charge of Roma, leading the Giallorossi to back-to-back runners-up spots in Serie A.
• Diego Simeone has been the Atlético coach since December 2011 and has added five trophies to the club’s collection, including the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League, as well as steering the Madrid club to the UEFA Champions League finals of 2014 and 2016. The combative ex-Argentina midfielder also had two spells at Atlético as a player, winning the Spanish double in 1995/96.