A look at 5 key players from Atletico in Europa League final
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A world-class goalkeeper, a flashy forward and a mean striker make Atletico Madrid a tough team to beat in the Europa League final against Marseille on Wednesday.
Here are five Atletico players to keep an eye on in the final in Lyon:
Antoine Griezmann has the natural attacking talent to stand out on any team, but he is the glaring exception on an Atletico side that is otherwise built on strength and ability to defend first, score second.
The 27-year-old France forward has speed, an eye for the decisive pass, and the ability to score difficult goals. His late goal to secure 10-man Atletico a 1-1 draw at Arsenal in the first leg of the semifinals sent the Spanish side into the final.
Griezmann will head to Atletico’s most important match of the season amid widespread speculation that Spanish rival Barcelona will try to lure him away.
Jan Oblak has rightfully earned a mention among the very best goalkeepers in Europe.
The Slovene leads the Spanish league in fewest goals conceded with 20 in 37 games. In the Europa League, he has conceded only four goals while keeping four clean sheets in eight matches.
While feline-like in his saves, Oblak still has the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid haunting him. In that game’s decisive penalty shootout, he failed to save any of Madrid’s five spot kicks.
Diego Costa left Atletico for Chelsea after leading the club to its greatest triumph under coach Diego Simeone, the 2014 Spanish league title. The Brazilian-born striker returned this season and now has a chance to help the team win a third Europa League title in a decade.
His goal finished off Arsenal in the second leg of the semifinals. A bruiser who earns as much attention for his bad temper and designs to bully opponents as his skillfully-taken goals, Costa is playing to secure his spot on Spain’s World Cup squad.
While Diego Godin is not the same scorer as in years past when he terrorized rivals with his headers from set pieces, the Uruguay center back is still a large reason why Atletico remains arguably the best defensive team among Europe’s elite.
Godin anchors Atletico’s watertight backline and embodies like no other player the work ethic and team-first convictions drilled into his players by Simeone.
Fernando Torres won’t start the match, and the former Spain striker might not even get the nod as a substitute. But this will be his last chance to finally win an elusive trophy with his boyhood club.
Torres will leave Atletico after this season. At 34, he is no longer an important player for Simeone, but he is an idol for Atletico’s fans. He also has experience in big matches, after winning the World Cup and European Championship with Spain and the Champions League and Europa League with Chelsea.
So a late appearance to snatch one last moment of glory cannot be ruled out for “The Kid.”