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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.


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Which Champions League group stage slots are already sewn up?

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The seasons of Europe are winding down, and we know more than a few names who will automatically qualify for the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League group stages.

Joining the holders — Real Madrid or Liverpool — will be the champions of the Top Ten rated leagues in Europe, as well as six runners-up from associations, four third-placed teams from associations 1–4, four fourth-placed teams from associations 1–4, and the Europa League title holders.

[ MORE: Rooney’s proposed DC move has good precedence ]

Some notes:

*If the UCL winner qualifies via the league, then the Czech Republic’s (11th overall) champion makes the group stage.

#If the UEL winner qualifies via the league, then France’s (5th overall) third-place team makes it.

UCL Champion: Real Madrid or Liverpool
UEL Champion: Atletico Madrid or Marseille

Top Four from England
Man City
Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool and/or Chelsea

Top Four from Germany
Bayern Munich
Schalke
(Two of) Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig

Top Four from Spain
Barcelona
Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid
Valencia

Top Four from Italy
Juventus
Napoli
(Two of) Roma, Lazio, Inter Milan

Top 2-3 from France#
Paris Saint-Germain
(Two or three of) Lyon, Monaco, Marseille#

Top Two from Russia
Lokomotiv Moscow
Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, or Krasnodar

Champions
Portugal: Porto
Ukraine: Shakhtar Donetsk or Dynamo Kyiv
Belgium: Club Brugge, Standard Liege, or Anderlecht
Turkey: Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Basaksehir, or Besiktas
Czech Republic*: Viktoria Plzen or Slavia Praha

Europa League live: Arsenal aims to overthrow Atleti in Spain

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Arsene Wenger and his side settled for a less-than-ideal first leg result at the Emirates Stadium, leaving the Gunners in a precarious position as they head to Spain in the UEFA Europa League.

Arsenal will meet Atletico Madrid in their second leg semifinals clash on Thursday, as one of the two sides seeks a place in the final.

[ MORE: Liverpool players to face Real “with confidence” in UCL final ]

The two clubs are currently level at 1-1 on aggregate, however, Antoine Griezmann’s vital away goal in the first leg has Atleti sitting in a comfortable position, especially after the visitors went down to 10 men early on in London.

The task won’t be an easy one for Arsenal, who needs at least one away goal of their own to advance.

Atletico boasts one of the top back lines in Europe, having conceded just 18 goals all season in domestic play, which ranks the lowest of any club in the top five divisions across the continent.

Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, Marseille has one foot into the final with a 2-0 lead over Red Bull Salzburg as the two teams head to Austria for the second leg.

The Ligue 1 side is unbeaten in its last six matches across all competitions, while pulling to within two points of second place in the French top flight.

It’s far from an impossibility that Red Bull can provide another comeback though this round, after having previously overturned a 4-2 deficit against Lazio in the quarterfinals with a 6-5 aggregate victory.

Europa League preview: Torres, Wenger aim to keep fairytale endings alive

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For all the talk — some of it authored by yours truly — about the romance of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger saying goodbye to the club in a French-hosted UEFA Europa League Final against French opposition, UEL semifinal opponents Atletico Madrid have an alluring argument of their own.

Atleti hosts Arsenal after a 1-1 first leg, bringing an away goal home in its bid to reach the May 16 final in Lyon.

[ MORE: Roma-Liverpool recap | Reds react ]

Fernando Torres is going to leave Atleti this summer, perhaps for the Chicago Fire, but admits he wishes he could play there forever.

Torres, 34, even says his first move away from the club, to Liverpool, was for the benefit of Atleti.

“I always will want what’s best for the team and always put Atletico Madrid before me,” he said in an interview with beIN LaLiga. “Twice,I have given up what I want most, which is to play here. I understand that it is good for the club, and I would do it a third and a fourth time.”

Torres went 90 minutes in Atleti’s 1-0 win over Alaves at the weekend, with regular strikers Kevin Gameiro, who scored off the bench, and Antoine Griezmann kept out of the Starting XI. Diego Simeone also rested Saul Niguez, Jan Oblak, and Jose Gimenez.

Arsenal will be also fresh after using a much-changed side against Manchester United this weekend.

Manager Arsene Wenger was quizzed about his intentions for the future, including a possible job in Spain. He didn’t bite.

“I believe a man has to give his best as long as he is somewhere, with all his commitment and energy. I would like one day to know I worked with all my energy until the last day. I would like to look back and think I finished this love affair well.”

Wenger also complimented Griezmann, his fellow Frenchman, praising him for trying to succeed outside of his home country.

“He is a player I rate. He moved out of France at a young age, he made it away from home. He has an exceptional career and he looks like he loves the game, which I like in a player that is talented.”

The other side of the draw has Marseille in Austria holding a 2-0 lead on Red Bull Salzburg.

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

UEL: Griezmann nabs crucial away goal vs. Arsenal, Marseille cruises

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A game of back-and-forth at the Emirates Stadium set up an enticing second leg in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, while a Ligue 1 side positioned itself well to move into the final.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Arsenal and Atletico Madrid settled for a 1-1 draw in London, as Antoine Griezmann’s late strike leveled the match for the Spanish side.

The Gunners looked on their way to a victory when Alexandre Lacazette‘s goal just beyond the hour mark put Arsene Wenger‘s men in front.

The result sets up a strong showdown for the two giants in a week’s time, although Arsenal will feel it left something on the table after racking up 26 shots (seven on target) on the day, particularly after Sime Vrsaljko was sent off after 10 minutes for the visitors when he picked up a second yellow card.

Meanwhile, Florian Thauvin and Clinton Njie gave Marseille a 2-0 win over Red Bull Leipzig, giving the French side the edge it sought out ahead of the competition finale.

The two clubs will meet again at Red Bull Arena Salzburg for the second leg.


Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Marseille 2-0 Red Bull Salzburg