Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen

Dublin Arena sets the stage for a mouth-watering Europa League final between Serie A high-flyers Atalanta and Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen. 

Atalanta’s first-ever appearance in a major European final is long overdue, as Gian Piero Gasperini’s side knocked on the door several times in the past few years. After a near-flawless group stage campaign (W4, D2), ‘La Dea’ got the better of Sporting CP, Liverpool, and Marseille en route to Dublin, only losing once in six knockout matches (W3, D2). Liverpool’s futile 1-0 second-leg win in Bergamo in the quarter-finals remains one of Atalanta’s mere two scoring blanks across their last 25 continental outings. That’s also the only blemish on an imperious 12-game Europa League run (W7, D4, L1). As if that’s not encouraging enough, Atalanta overpowered Leverkusen in their only previous European tie, winning both legs in their 2020/21 Europa League last-16 clash by a single-goal margin. 

Poised to settle the account, Bayer Leverkusen head to Ireland in high spirits after a 2-1 home win against Augsburg at the weekend saw them become the first side in Bundesliga history to clinch the title without a single defeat. Leverkusen’s formidable league record (W28, D6) forms part of a record-breaking run of 51 unbeaten matches across all competitions (W42, D9). Extending that streak to 52 would add only a second piece of European silverware to the club’s trophy cabinet following the 1988 UEFA Cup triumph. ‘Die Werkself’ outperformed Atalanta’s group stage exploits, winning all six games by an aggregate score of 19-3 before overcoming Qarabag, West Ham, and Roma in the knockout phase. Aptly named ‘Neverlusen,’ Xabi Alonso’s overachievers have scored an incredible 17 goals in second-half stoppages this season, suggesting a late drama could be on the cards. 

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