Not quite the all Spanish final we were all expecting, but the Europa League will be won by a La Liga side, as Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao face each other in the finals. It's the first time this has happened in the Europa League since 2007, when Seville and Espanyol contested the final of the tournament when it was still the UEFA Cup.
Of course, Atletico Madrid have already tasted success in this competition, just 2 years ago, when they beat Fulham 2-1 in the finals. Four players still remain from that side, Assuncao, Lopez, Dominguez and Perea. Defender Perea has shaken off a leg problem and is fit, and the captain Antonio Lopez looks set to play too.
Madrid have already faced Bilbao twice this season, as they are both in La Liga, with Bilbao winning 3-0 at home back in October, while Madrid won the last meeting 2-1. It is Atletico that boast the better form though, as they are on an incredible 11 game winning streak in Europe, which is a record they share with Ajax. Bilbao won 5 of their last 7 Europa League games but have consistently failed to show up defensively in away games. The offence has bailed them out in many games though, such as the big wins over Manchester United, but if they continue like that here, they will surely get beaten. Bilbao have now given up 2 goals in their last 4 away games through the knockout phase.
Fernando Llorente will be a danger to Madrid as he has 5 goals and 3 assists in his last 7 appearances in the competition, but Atletico Madrid have the real form striker, Radamel Falcao. The Portugese has now netted 27 goals in 28 Europa League games, including 5 in his last 5. With 10 goals Falcao is tied with Huntelaar as the highest scorers in the competition this year. Adrian, who also plays for Madrid, is just behind on 8.
I've been looking at the head-to-head between these two, as they play each other every year, and it seems they have managed to beat each other every year over the last 5 years! So not much to choose between them, as I don't think the league standings matter at this stage with this game being played in Romania.
Athletic Bilbao's recent run in all competitions does worry me a bit. They have won just 4 of their last 11, losing 4 and drawing 3. On the weekend they rested several top players and drew 0-0 at home against Getafe. Atletico Madrid warmed up with a 2-1 win over Malaga. Madrid have already had to deal with La Liga opposition in the semis, beaten Valencia 4-2 at home and then again 1-0 in Valencia for an impressive 5-2 aggregate win. Bilbao scraped though against Sporting Lisbon thanks to a 3-1 home win that just about made up for their 2-1 loss in Portugal.
Toth teams to score at 1.80 is a solid safe looking bet that I will strongly recommend.
Addicted Betting Tip : Both team to score