Europa League Final 2018: Date, Predictions for Atletico Madrid vs. Marseille

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2018

Atletico fans hold up scarves before the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Arsenal FC at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on May 3, 2018. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid and Marseille will contest the 2018 UEFA Europa League final after doing enough in their respective meetings against Arsenal and Red Bull Salzburg to progress Thursday evening.

Marseille lost 2-1 at the Red Bull Arena but advance after Rolando came on to score in the 116th minute from a controversially awarded corner, ensuring the French guests won 3-2 over both legs to make their first European final since 2004.

Los Rojiblancos were more regimented in their approach and beat Arsenal 1-0 in the return leg of their encounter, triumphing 2-1 on aggregate after managing a 1-1 draw in London with 10 men last Thursday.

The final will feel more like a home fixture for Marseille, who will make the journey from France's south coast to the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, where their fans will hope to claim an edge over the Spanish visitors.

Read on for fixture information ahead of the final along with predictions for which outfit we might see emerge as Europa League champions.

        

Date: Monday, May 16

Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon, France

         

Wizened Atletico Return to Europa Roost

European football would need to witness one of its bigger upsets in recent final history for anyone but Atletico to hold the Europa League trophy aloft in Lyon on May 16, particularly if Thursday's performances were anything to go by.

While Atleti were their usually well-structured selves capable of pulling off their usual game plan, Marseille lacked direction as they tried too hard to defend their 2-0 first-leg lead.

Simon Collings of Hayters was left unimpressed with the head-to-head in Salzburg:

On paper, Atletico Madrid are a better team in almost every regard and house a squad boasting far more experience in challenging for serious silverware, many of whom were present for the UEFA Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016.

Marseille have mustered impressive victories in this competition already and ousted RB Leipzig and Athletic Bilbao from the running, but Diego Simeone's Atletico will be another beast entirely.

Missed opportunities against Chelsea and semi-finalists AS Roma saw them heaved out of the Champions League but only after they conceded just four goals in six group games. Only Manchester United (three) and Barcelona (one) conceded fewer.

Football writer David Kappel did, however, hail Marseille's strength in attack—they boast talented wingers in Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin—as well as the extra motivation sure to be provided by their surroundings:

It will be of interest to see how the fixture being staged in France will impact Marseille's chances, with many of their players also well-versed in what it means to lose a major final.

That being said, Atletico and Simeone's ability to be surgical in executing a defensive plan without being emotionally invested is almost unparalleled in European football and should lead them to a third Europa League crown in nine years.

Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Marseille

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