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Europa League final: Atalanta vs Leverkusen – what to look out for

Atalanta have a striker hitting peak form at the right time, while Leverkusen have a gigantic mission to accomplish. Explore some of the key storylines ahead of the Europa League decider in Dublin.

Gian Piero Gasperini, Gianluca Scamacca, Victor Boniface and Xabi Alonso
Gian Piero Gasperini, Gianluca Scamacca, Victor Boniface and Xabi Alonso

First-time finalists Atalanta are taking on all-conquering Leverkusen in the UEFA Europa League final.

In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the showpiece at Dublin Arena on Wednesday 22 May.

Where to watch the Europa League final

What to look out for

Scamacca hitting form at right time
Gianluca Scamacca's side reached a major UEFA club competition final last season, but the striker was unable to enjoy the full experience. A summer signing for English club West Ham, the former Sassuolo man scored three goals in 16 Premier League appearances before a knee injury (and subsequent operation) ensured he was merely a spectator as the Hammers beat Fiorentina in the UEFA Europa Conference League final in Prague.

This time around, it seems the 25-year-old is determined to make the most of the opportunity. Having scored once in the group stage, Scamacca now has momentum on his side after registering at least once against all of Atalanta's knockout phase opponents – including a double in La Dea's stunning 3-0 quarter-final win at Liverpool. "Confidence helps you make that extra run, helps you risk that pass or shot that maybe you don't risk without confidence," he told UEFA.com.

Atalanta's road to the Europa League final: Every goal

Leverkusen on hunt for treble
After the heroic Leverkusen team of 2001/02 managed to finish as runners-up in the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the UEFA Champions League, it felt like the Werkself were cursed, but a weight has been taken off their shoulders in some style this season. Five-time Bundesliga runners-up, they cantered to the title under Xabi Alonso and could yet turn an amazing season into a truly unbelievable one.

UEFA Cup winners in 1988, Leverkusen are looking to win their second continental trophy in Dublin. Should they get the better of Fiorentina, they have the chance to make it a treble when they take on Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final, three days after the Europa League decider. It's a huge task, but one that Leverkusen are determined to take one step at a time. "Now we have to focus intensively on Atalanta," said midfielder Jonas Hofmann after the semi-final success against Roma. "Winning the final in the end – that's what it's all about. And we haven't won it yet."

Leverkusen's road to the Europa League final: Every goal

A tale of two coaches
A Champions League winner with Liverpool and Real Madrid, as well as a two-time EURO and one-time World Cup winner with Spain, Xabi Alonso was one of the great midfielders of his age, and has now emerged as one of the brightest coaching talents. Leverkusen is his first senior job, and after taking his side from the relegation zone to a top-six finish in his first campaign, he has exceeded all expectations in his second. "At this moment, I feel this is the right place for me to be to develop as a coach," the 42-year-old said recently.

Knowing where he belongs has been a theme of Gian Piero Gasperini's career since he brought his fluid, ultra-attacking style to Atalanta in 2016. Gasperini's side have been regulars in Europe, and he has been Coach of the Season in Italy twice, though he has nothing more tangible to show for his brilliance. Indeed, at 66, he has yet to lead a club to any kind of trophy. "Without doubt, we care about winning something, but the prize also is seeing the unity of these lads," he said after Atalanta's quarter-final success at Liverpool. Seeing those players lift a trophy as well? That would be something else.

Xabi Alonso on Leverkusen's knack of scoring late goals

Where is the 2024 UEFA Europa League final being played?

Getty Images

The 2023/24 UEFA Europa League season is concluding at Dublin Arena in the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday 22 May.

With a capacity in excess of 50,000, Dublin Arena is the home of the Republic of Ireland's national football and Ireland's rugby union team. First opened in 2010, the stadium will be staging its second UEFA Europa League decider, having been the venue for the all-Portuguese final of 2011 between Porto and Braga, when Radamel Falcao scored the only goal as the Dragons took the trophy.

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