A Europa League final to really look forward to on Wednesday night and the all-Spanish clash in Romania should be one to savour.
With Real Madrid and Barcelona again dominating, La Liga’s strength in depth has been questioned once more but Athletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have impressed all the way to the showpiece and there has been no fluke about either’s progress to Bucharest.
Currently sitting fifth and tenth respectively domestically, with just one round of fixtures remaining, the pair will be desperate to land some silverware and the side from the capital have an excellent recent pedigree.
Athletico were Europa League winners in 2010, beating Fulham 2-1 after extra-time in the final, and I take them to follow up just two years later.
Having got the better of Valencia, winning both legs of the semi-final, in the last four I think Athletico enter in slight better form and am also of the opinion that Diego Simeone’s side possess more likely match-winners, too.
Leading the line will be Radamel Falcao, Europa League winner last year with Porto, and the Colombian’s ten goals in this season’s renewal have been crucial to his side.
It is 33 strikes in all competitions for the €40 million signing and he has certainly proven his worth throughout the campaign.
Manager Simeone has galvanized the club since he took over and a seven-game unbeaten run ahead of Wednesday’s showdown suggests Athletico are ready to take care of their opponents for the second time in just under two months.
It finished 2-1 to the hosts when Athletic visited the Vicente Calderon in mid-March, Falcao on target twice, and the underdogs form ahead of the final might just concern coach Marcelo Bielsa.
On their day there is not much to choose between the pair but Athletico Madrid look the more likely to me and should have too much for their opponents who have failed to score in their last three matches.
2pts Back Athletico Madrid (vs. Athletic Bilbao) @ 2.50 (Paddy Power, Stan James) 1pt Each Way Back Falcao (First Goal Scorer) @ 6.00 (various)