Thousands of fans from both clubs have invaded the Rumanian capital Bucharest in anticipation of what should be a captivating clash between the two Spanish sides, the ninth time clubs from that country have met in the final of a European competition.
“A final is something unique and not to be repeated and that is the difference,” Athletic boss Marcelo Bielsa told UEFA.com. It is a view held by opposite number Diego Simeone, whose club won this competition two years ago although none of the members of the victorious team that beat Fulham are expected to be in his starting line-up.
Simeone’s men go into the game as the Europa League’s highest scorers, with 30 goals from the group stage onwards, and have won 11 consecutive games in the competition.
“A final is always special,” said the Argentine. “We have to live it with the hunger of a boy who’s just started out and the experience of a player who has been around a long time.”
In Athletic’s case it is 35 years since they last contested a European final, when they lost the UEFA Cup to Juventus on away goals, and Bielsa is hoping his team can see a lot of the ball on the night, despite being wary of Atleti’s counter-attacking style.
“I hope we can enjoy lots of possession and possibilities to attack, yet we must watch out for them on the counter-attack. We must have faith in our qualities and what we need to do is to live up to that level and to show as much as we can of the team’s potential,” he explained.