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Stuart Dalgleish 8th May 2012 - 18:55

Athletic can take top Bil-ling

Europa League Final preview: Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao - 19:45 live on Channel 5

Thousands of Spaniards descend on Bucharest as the city prepares to host the Europa League final between Atletico Madrid (6/4) and Athletic Bilbao (2/1, draw 2/1).

Atletico are slight favourites to lift the trophy at 8/11, with Bilbao Evens, but make no mistake about it Marcelo Bielsa's men certainly have the capability to win this one.

The Basque outfit hit the headlines when they knocked out Premier League champions Manchester United in the round of 16, and several eye-catching displays since then have proved that it was no fluke.

They might not have the world famous names that Barcelona and Real Madrid do, but they're an exciting young team that's full of energy and not afraid of going toe-to-toe with the big guns.

One player that has epitomised that fearless approach is Iker Muniain (11/1 first goal), the Spanish international has really shone in this European run and he's nearly always involved in Bilbao's goals whether it's scoring them himself (he has five in Europe) or laying on the chances for others.

Muniain, along with Fernando Llorente (11/2), will be attracting a lot of interest from around Europe and Bilbao will do well to keep hold of these two, especially as their Champions League charge has long since disappeared and players of this quality deserve to be playing in the main European competition.

That man Llorente is involved in one of THREE fabulous Match Winners we have on the game; we've enhanced the price of the big Spanish striker scoring and Bilbao winning in 90 minutes from 3/1 to 4/1, the opposite scenario with Falcao and Atletico is enhanced from 11/4 to 7/2.

If you think the match is sure to go all the way though, then our 6/1 on offer of the final being decided on penalties is sure to tempt you, we've enhanced that price from 5/1.

Diego Simeone will certainly be hoping the match doesn't go all the way, as Madrid have a massive game in the league at the weekend, should they beat Villarreal (8/5) and Malaga don't beat Sporting Gijon then los Rojiblancos are in the Champions League.

The Vicente Calderon faithful must be thinking what could've been if Gregorio Manzano had bitten the bullet a bit earlier, if a CL spot was already guaranteed then they would've been able to rotate their team around a lot more - like Bilbao have before and after Europa League games.

That is why I'm edging towards Athletic in this one, they've got a fresher squad and they are also assured of their place in Europe next season as they will go in to the Europa League through reaching the Copa del Rey final.

Of course, even Atletico's weary team are still a class outfit and they have been a team transformed under Simeone, just at this stage of the season though when they have such a big game to come after this, the team will have to be rotated a little bit and that's going to favour Bielsa's boys.

Two certain starters will be Falcao (5/1) and Diego (12/1), with the former having enjoyed a phenomenal debut season in Spain with 33 goals to his name, the ten he's notched in Europe put him level with Klass Jan-Huntelaar in the golden boot race.

The Colombian powerhouse has just one in his last five games, but the two that he got in the first leg against Valencia were of the highest order, and you know as a defender that you're not going to get a minute's rest with him around.

Brazilian ace Diego is trying to get his career back on track after a disappointing spell at Juventus, the midfield schemer was suspended when at Werder Bremen as the Germans lost the Europa League final in 2009 and he'll be desperate to make amends for that.

He enjoyed the best spell of his career when at the Bundesliga giants, and he's getting back towards that sort of form now having produced several great performances for Atleti, he has a great eye for a pass and every now and then he steps up with a great free-kick, I'd be tempted into backing him to score anytime at 5/1.

In fact, I would fancy quite a few players to get on the scoresheet, as these two don't tend to do bore draws; there has not been a goalless draw in the last 23 meetings between the teams so expect more of the same in Romania.

Both teams to score seems a great shout at 4/6, but I'd have a look at over 3.5 goals at really good odds of 12/5.

A cheeky little outside bet I like the look of is Javi Martinez to score anytime (7/1) and Bibao win in 90 minutes at 12/1, the Spaniard scored against Atletico earlier in the season and has a few career goals against the capital club.

 

 
 
 

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