Premier League

Bayer Leverkusen & Atalanta to contest 2024 Europa League final

El Bilal Toure

Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta will go head to head in this season’s Europa League final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on 22 May.

Although they won 4-2 on aggregate to qualify for a first European final since Real Madrid beat them with that Zinedine Zidane volley at Hampden Park in the Champions League 22 years ago, Leverkusen nearly saw their undefeated season go up in smoke in their 49th game of 2023/24.

Xabi Alonso’s high-flying side have already wrapped up the Bundesliga title and will soon also contest the DFB-Pokal final against Kaiserslautern three days after the Europa League wraps. And so an incredible treble, unthinkable when the Spaniard arrived in 2022, remains very much within reach.

But their semi-final tie looked to be heading for extra-time when Roma surprisingly wiped out a 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg. Leandro Paredes scored penalties in either half for Daniele de Rossi’s team to even things out. Yet Leverkusen got their noses back ahead when the ball cannoned off Roma defender Gianluca Mancini from a corner that wasn’t dealt with.

From there, even though they had the aggregate lead back and were heading through to the final, Leverkusen pushed and pushed to try and equalise on the night and therefore remain unbeaten. The crucial goal in that sense came in the 97th minute when Josip Stanisic fired home.

El Bilal Toure

Atalanta are in a European final for the first time / Marco Luzzani/GettyImages

In Dublin, they will meet Atalanta, who have been relegated from Serie A as many as 12 times in their history – including as recently as 2011, but are into a European final for the first time.

Getting the better of Marseille to achieve that feat, they built on a 1-1 first leg draw in France last week with a 3-0 victory back home thanks to goals from Ademola Lookman and Matteo Ruggeri either side of half-time, and El Bilal Toure in stoppage time.

Much of their continental pedigree comes from recent years under the guidance of Gian Piero Gasperini, who masterminded this season’s quarter-final dismantling of Liverpool. The Bergamo outfit got to the Champions League last eight in 2020, and then the quarter-finals of the Europa League two years later. They had previously reached the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1988.

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