Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao: Match Preview

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Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao; Europa League final; National Arena, Bucharest; 1945 KO.

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Athletic Bilbao face Atletico Madrid tonight in an all-Spanish Europa League Final in Bucharest, Romania.

Atletico will have to do without banned midfielder Tiago Mendes, who was sent-off against Valencia in the second-leg of their semi-final, and Gabi is the man expected to fill in his shoes.

Their captain Antonio Lopez has returned from an injury, but might have to watch the action from the bench as he is not fully recovered. Luis Parea may also be welcomed back following his injury, but Fran Merida and Silvio are unavailable.

For Bilbao, things look better absence-wise, since their star striker Fernando Llorente was rested alongside Iker Muniain over the weekend in order to be ready for tonight.

Athletic's only concern is the race of Fernando Amorebieta to pass the fitness test. The Venezuela international has a calf injury, but is expected to be fit for the game.


Spanish sides collide in Europa final

Athletico Madrid are regarded as the most experienced team of the two and in better form. They have won 11 consecutive matches in the Europa League, and no-one has managed to beat them in the last seven matches in all competitions.

The Madrid club won the tournament in 2010, beating Fulham in the final, and also refreshed their armoury by signing the man who scored the winner for Porto in last year's final, Radamel Falcao.

It is a big occasion and the Rojiblanco's coach, Diego Simeone, hopes that his team won't let enthusiasm overshadow responsibility.

"A final is always special. We have to live it with the hunger of a boy who's just started out and the experience of a player who's been around a long time", the former Argentina international told reporters.

Although Atletico have been there before, they have to overcome a rejuvenated Bilbao side that has caught Europe's eye with their displays.

Their high-tempo philosophy that has been applied by their own Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa helped them stun Manchester United over both legs at the last 16 stage.

The Basques carried on to terminate Schalke's and Sporting Lisbon's Europa League campaigns, but domestically they dropped to tenth position.

Most blame their style's physical demands, which forced Bielsa to seat key players on the bench during some of La Liga's important matches, for that lowly position, and only two players from the expected line-up started the game against Getafe last Saturday.

"A final is something unique and not to be repeated and that is the difference. What we need to do is to live up to that level and to show as much as we can the team's potential", Bielsa told

With the Copa Del Ray final against Barcelona on 25th May lurking around the corner, the charismatic coach pointed out that they have to stick to the schedule.

"We need to play our natural game and make use of our strengths, the best guarantee of winning. It's a final and emotions, mine included, are intensified. But the important thing is how to transfer these special things into the game itself."

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