KEIR RADNEDGE in LYON —- Atletico Madrid are poised to regain Spanish hegemony over the Europa League even though rivals Olympique Marseille will be playing home-from-home in Lyon with a mass of the stadium on their side.
More than 900 security staff are being deployed because these are clubs with history. Marseille have been punished by European federation UEFA three times already this season for fan misbehaviour and more trouble in the old capital of Gaul would trigger a one-match awayday suspension for their volatile following.
Also, in October 2008, visiting Marseille fans were involved in a bloody confrontation with Spanish police in old Estadio Calderon after Atletico’s 2-1 win in the Champions League.
Security commanders are concerned not only with fans from the competing clubs but whether local Lyon ultras will turn out to give all their visitors a taste 0fnthe treatment meted out to Tottenham fans in 2013.
The prospects of trouble off the pitch would probably be reduced if Marseille were successful on it in what is their fifth European final.
This is unlikely. Atletico are not only favourites but at full strength, their attack spearheaded by two of the finest strikers in the European game in homecoming Frenchman Antoine Griezmann and Hispano-Brazilian Diego Costa – the latter’s presence a vindication of his decision to quit Chelsea last year.
The last time Griezmann lined up in France in a European final he finished on the losing side with France against Portugal in Euro 2016. But that was in the Stade de France in Saint-Denis.
The only Atletico absentee will be their Argentinian coach Diego Simeone who is serving a touchline suspension after being shown a red card in the first leg of the semi-final victory over Arsenal. Simeone’s role on the bench is being taken up by Mono Burgos, his assistant and a former Atletico goalkeeper.
Marseille will look to captain Dmitri Payet, once of West Ham, and another Premier League exile in former Newcastle winger Florian Thauvin. He has enjoyed a remarkable season, contributing a Ligue-leading 26 goals and 16 assists in all competitions.
Records are beckoning in all directions.
Marseille, the first French club to win a European trophy when they secured the Champions Cup in 1981, could become the first Ligue 1 representatives to win two trophies. Alternatively, they could become the first club to lose four.
Atletico want to reverse their bad luck of recent seasons. They won the UEFA Cup, the Europa League’s predecessor, in 2010 and 2012 (and the Super Cup both times) but lost the Champions League Final to neighbours Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016.
Atletico can also regain Spanish command of the Europa League after Manchester United last year broke the three-year winning spell cast by Sevilla.
Atletico: Oblak – Vrsaljko, Gimenez, Godin, Filipe Luis – Gabi, Partey, Saul Niguez – Koke – Diego Costa, Griezmann.
Marseille: Mandanda – Sakai, Rami, Luis Gustavo, Amavi – Thauvin, Anguissa, Sanson, Ocampos – Germain.