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  • Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Europa League: Boniface, Lookman clash as Leverkusen battle Atalanta in epic final

Nigerian forwards Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella will aim to add another trophy to their recent Bundesliga triumph with Bayer Leverkusen as they face compatriot Ademola Lookman’s Atalanta in the Europa League final at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday.

Xabi Alonso‘s team are on a mission to secure the club’s second Europa League title, completing an unbeaten treble in the process. However, they must first overcome Atalanta’s dynamic attack, which famously knocked Liverpool out of the competition.

Leverkusen showcased their resilience in the semi-finals, overcoming a two-goal deficit against Roma to draw 2-2 in the second leg. Leandro Paredes’ brace had initially put Roma back in contention, but an own goal by Gianluca Mancini and a late equalizer by Croatia defender Josip Stanisic secured Leverkusen’s place in the final with a 4-2 aggregate score.

“We are happy to be in the final. We’ll play two finals in a week as a result. We showed great character today after their second goal. I looked my players in the eye afterwards and saw that they wanted more. We still have the chance to win three titles. And my boys deserve all three titles,” Alonso told the media after the match.

On the other side, Nigerian forward Lookman was pivotal for Atalanta, scoring in their 3-0 victory over Marseille in the second leg of their semi-final, securing a 4-1 aggregate win.

This triumph marks Atalanta’s first appearance in a European final. Head coach Gian Piero Gasperini is eager to clinch his first managerial trophy and lead his team to European glory.

“It’s a historic achievement for us. We celebrated after Liverpool and Sporting, and rightly so. But we know very well that it’s not over. Now we have several important games to play, and we will have time to think about Leverkusen,” Gasperini said following their victory over Marseille.

The last encounter between these two teams was in the Last 16 of the 2021/22 Europa League season, where Gasperini’s Atalanta defeated Leverkusen 4-2 on aggregate, winning 3-2 at home and then losing 0-1 away.

Atalanta hopes to repeat this success against an undefeated Leverkusen team now led by Alonso, a Champions League winner with both Liverpool and Real Madrid.

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