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Atletico Madrid wins third Europa League title

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A Frenchman ended the silverware dreams of a French power.

Antoine Griezmann’s brace, both assisted by Koke, led Atletico Madrid past Marseille 3-0, claiming the UEFA Europa League title on Wednesday in Lyon.

It’s the third Europa League crown for Atleti, and for Diego Simeone (two as Atleti manager, and one as Inter Milan player).

Gabi also scored for Atleti.

[ MORE: The Premier League season in statistics ]

Valere Germain was played through on goal very early, but missed his chance to give Marseille the lead.

The miss stung soon after, when Steve Mandanda made a poor clearance. Koke hit it to Griezmann first time, and the Atleti striker scored in his home country.

Marseille lost Dimitri Payet to an injury soon after the half-hour mark.

And Griezmann made it 2-0 before the second half was four minutes old, taking another Koke through ball and flicking over a diving Mandanda.

Kostas Mitroglou subbed into the game for Marseille and headed off the frame in the Ligue 1 side’s best chance to get back into the hunt.

LIVE, Europa League final: Marseille v. Atletico Madrid

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The UEFA Europa League final takes place in Lyon, France on Wednesday (kick off, 2:45 p.m. ET) with Marseille and Atletico Madrid clashing for the second-biggest trophy in European club soccer.

[ LIVE: Europa League final ]

Atletico are the overwhelming favorites but Marseille have rode a wave of positivity towards the final as they aim to become the first French club to win a major European club trophy since they won the European Cup back in 1993. Although Paris Saint-Germain did win the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995-95, it must be noted…

Marseille lost in the Europa League final (then known as the UEFA Cup) in 1999 and 2004 but the Ligue 1 side are hoping mercurial playmaker Dimitri Payet can deliver the goods, along with top scorer Florian Thauvin, a few hundred miles from home in what would be a big shock.

Victory would secure Marseille a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage next season with the French giants currently out of the UCL qualification spots in the French top-flight with one game to go.

Diego Simeone will not be able to coach his Atletico Madrid team from the sidelines in the final after his antics in the first leg of their semifinal victory against Arsenal and although Atleti have already secured their spot in the Champions League next season via a top four finish in La Liga, this is a competition they love after winning it in 2010 and 2012.

Antoine Griezmann is the danger man for Atleti (who lost to Real Madrid in both the 2014 and 2016 UCL finals) with the French international striker looking to end the season on a high back in his homeland, while Diego Costa will be sniffing around for goals, and trouble, as per usual…

Click on the link above to follow all the action from the Groupama Stadium live, while we will have analysis and reaction from the final right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


LINEUPS

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

PSG issues Neymar injury update; Silva claims Marseille targeted star

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Pretty heavy charges lay at the feet of Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet, as PSG announced that Neymar has a sprained ankle and broken metatarsal.

[ MORE: PL All Star teams? ]

The Paris Saint-Germain captain claims that Payet and his teammates aimed to hurt Neymar in the lead-up to the seemingly innocuous exchange that ultimately sent the megastar off the field on the stretcher.

His basis? Silva says Payet told the referee as much:

“It’s a shame. Payet said to the referee that he wanted to hurt. That is not football.”

French radio station RMC claimed Payet told referee Benoit Bastien: “Tell Neymar to calm down or we are going to take care of him.”

Now Neymar’s injury came without contact — typically worse for the severity of the injury — and after he snuck his studs onto Bouna Sarr’s leg, but there’s no question the Brazilian was being hunted (There’s embellishment in the below video, but also clear tactical fouling).

PSG plays Marseille again on Wednesday in the French Cup before a league match at Troyes and a first leg with Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

7 good, 7 bad: Analyzing the PL January deals

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With a record $596.7 million spent on new players by Premier League clubs in January, there are plenty of new faces who are either settling in at their new clubs or they’re about to.

[ MORE: Latest January transfer news ] 

Bearing that in mind, let’s focus on seven deals which were good and seven deals where they jury remains well and truly out.

[ MORE: January transfer grades for each club ] 

Remember: the term “panic buy” was invented for the January window…


7 GOOD SIGNINGS

1. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Dortmund to Arsenal, $79.6 million) – The big man should be a big player for Arsenal for many years to come and he joins as the reigning top goalscorer in the Bundesliga with a reputation for holding the ball up and finishing chances clinically. Auba’s arrival is a big boost for the Gunners and it will be intriguing to see if Lacazette lines up alongside him.
2. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool to West Brom, loan) – Could prove to be the signing of the January window, if he stays fit. Sturridge’s pedigree as a supreme goalscorer is undoubted but he had no chances of regular minutes. Fair play to him for rolling up his sleeves in a relegation battle at West Brom rather than joining Inter Milan or Sevilla. He needs to play well, and scored goals, to work himself into England’s 2018 World Cup squad.
3. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal to Man United, swap) – We all know about Sanchez’s quality and once Mourinho finds the perfect place for him in the lineup, he will flourish. He could perhaps do his best work centrally behind Lukaku before drifting out wide. Huge wages, but a swap deal for Mkhitaryan represented a wonderful deal for United.

4. Lucas Moura (PSG to Tottenham, $32.6 million) – This one flew under the radar on Deadline Day but could be the biggest bargain of them all. The former Real Madrid winger can rip opponents apart but was out of favor at PSG despite his best mate Neymar urging him to stay, The Brazilian winger will expect to start right away at Spurs.
5. Theo Walcott (Arsenal to Everton, $28.4 million) – Two goals and an assist in his first two games for Everton is a very tidy return and Walcott is another player hungry to get back into the England squad ahead of the World Cup. That’s good news for Everton and he’s made a flying start.
6. Fousseni Diabate (Ajaccio to Leicester, $2.55 million) – Another gem from France’s second tier for the Foxex as Diabete scored twice during his debut in the FA Cup and could be a replacement for Riyad Mahrez, long term. Pace, power and trickery, Diabete should slot into life in the PL very easily.
7. Joao Mario (Inter Milan to West Ham, loan) – Looks like an inspired loan deal until the end of the season with Mario being named Man of the Match on his PL debut. The Hammers may have finally replaced Dimitri Payet


7 BAD SIGNINGS

1. Cenk Tosun (Besiktas to Everton, $38.3 million) – It appears that Besiktas have had a bit of a touch with this deal. Everton were desperate to bring in a new striker at the start of the window and they overpaid for Tosun. The Turkish striker has 64 goals in 124 games for Turkey but in his first few appearances for Everton he has looked off the pace.
2. Andre Ayew (West Ham to Swansea City, $25.5 million) – Bit of a strange deal this one. Andre Ayew didn’t want to move back to Swansea for most of the window, then all of a sudden he did. Swansea have paid a club-record fee for an injury prone striker who scored nine PL goals in 43 appearances for West Ham over the past two seasons. Hardly prolific.
3. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Man United to Arsenal, swap) – Something about this just tells me it won’t quite be the success we all think. Yes, Mkhitaryan has his buddy Aubameyang with him, but there’s a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Failed to take games by the scruff of the neck at United over the last 18 months.

4. Guido Carrillo (Monaco to Southampton, $27.1 million) – A little harsh based on two sub appearances for Saints, but he didn’t exactly rip it up at Monaco. It appears the Ligue 1 club were quite surprised to see Saints spend a club-record fee. Pellegrino is desperate for goals but Carillo averages 1 every four  games in his career.
5. Ross Barkley (Everton to Chelsea, $21.3 million) – Looks a shadow of the player he was at Everton 18 months ago and Barkley’s career is in serious danger if it carries on in this trajectory. Is he going to be another promising Englishman who ends up on the Chelsea scrapheap?
6. Alex Pritchard (Norwich City to Huddersfield, $15.6 million) – Lot of pressure on his shoulders as the club-record signing and has so far struggled to settle into a struggling Terriers side.
7. Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester to Brighton, loan) – This move seems to be all about nostalgia. Yes, Ulloa is an aerial presence, but is he really better than Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed? Probably not.