Europa League set for fitting finale

The Hamburg Arena beckons Club Atlético de Madrid and Fulham FC who have outlasted the rest of the 192-team field to position themselves within one game of glory.

Europa League set for fitting finale
Europa League set for fitting finale ©

Hamburg is Germany's second-biggest city, Europe's third-largest port – and, for 90 minutes at least on Wednesday, the centre of attention for football watchers across the continent as it plays host to its first one-off European club final.

The inaugural UEFA Europa League season has its climactic chapter at the Hamburg Arena, with Club Atlético de Madrid and Fulham FC ready to take a shot at glory following semi-final triumphs over Liverpool FC and Hamburger SV.

The two teams certainly bring a freshness to the first final since the UEFA Europa League took the baton from the UEFA Cup last year. Northern Germany will be the destination for thousands of Fulham fans made giddy by Roy Hodgson's men scaling unprecedented European heights.

If this is a maiden UEFA showpiece event for the Cinderella side from west London, Atlético are a more familiar presence on such a lofty stage. Even so, it is the Spanish club's first continental final since the 1986 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup – and only once in four previous attempts have they lifted a European trophy, beating ACF Fiorentina to land the Cup Winners' Cup in 1962.

Younger generations of Rojiblancos supporters will therefore be desperate to see coach Quique Sánchez Flores outwit Fulham's more experienced mastermind Hodgson.

Whatever the drama that unfolds on Wednesday, expect an enhancement on Hamburg's reputation as one of Germany's foremost sporting cities. The other 190 teams that fought in a losing cause to be here would have it no other way.