OM - Atletico | The Final Challenge16 may 2018
Olympique de Marseille bid for a European title once again tonight, a quarter-of-a-century from the 1993 UEFA Champions League triumph as they take on Atletico Madrid in the 2018 UEFA Europa League final at Lyon's Groupama Stadium (kick-off 20:45 CET).
In another twist to a frenetic and long season which enters its 61st chapter this evening, Marseille can become the first French team to win Europe's second competition, just as it was the first and only Ligue 1 club to win the Champions League, a record that still stands to this day.
OM enter the final as underdogs, despite what can be regarded as 'home advantage' against Diego Simeone's Atletico. The venue is Lyon, just 300km north of Marseille - with potential victory at the stadium of a league rival adding just another narrative to what already is a final full of sub-plots.
Not only can the club achieve a first title in six years of any kind, victory will also guarantee a spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage, as well as a spot in Pot 1 alongside the league champions of the top 6 nations and the Champions League winner. It represents a grand prize at stake in Lyon tonight.
Atletico however, are certainly no pushovers. The side currently second in Spain's La Liga easily dispatched Arsenal in the semi-final, having also overcome Lokomotiv Moscow, FC Copenhagen and Sporting Lisbon in the knockout stages.
The Madrid side have a lot of experience in European finals, reaching 4 this decade, while OM encounter their first showpiece in 14 years. Atletico won this competition in 2010 (against Fulham) and 2012 (against Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao), but lost the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals to arch-rivals Real Madrid.
As such, Diego Simeone has made a point of his side using tonight's final as a point of rejuvenation for a team that has suffered in finals recently. Nevertheless, they face a cavalier Marseille team who will be sure to keep the trophy in France for the very first time.
The Spanish outfit boast significant talent in all areas of the field - from world-class goalkeeper Jan Oblak, to Diego Godin and Marseille-born Lucas Hernandez - tenacious midfielders Saul and Koke as well as French international and OM admirer Antoine Griezmann who should start up front alongside Diego Costa.
Rudi Garcia has been boosted by the return of Kostas Mitroglou, Dimitri Payet and Rolando for the final. The club captain, who was out of Friday's 3-3 draw at Guingamp returns and should start in Lyon, having made it clear in Tuesday's press conference of his intention to emulate the heros of 1993.
At the end of such a long season, with just one game to go after tonight, a European title would be a just reward for a team who has come on leaps and bounds in the 2017-18 season.
One more challenge, and we're all behind them to achieve the feat!