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Three things to watch out for in the 2023/24 Europa League final

It’s D-Day in the 2023/24 Europa League as Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen lock horns in the final at Dublin Arena on Wednesday. 

On one side, we have Serie A minnows going the distance in their 11th European campaign.

On the other are the European record-breakers, who head to Ireland on an unprecedented 51-game unbeaten run.

For the Italians, it’s a first-ever appearance in a major European final and a chance to win their first top-tier silverware in over 60 years.

As for the Germans, it’s potentially a new chapter of a fairytale that only last weekend saw them become the first ‘Invincibles’ in Bundesliga history. 

With the Europa League final just hours away, we look at the three potentially crucial aspects of tonight’s game.

Atalanta’s dreadful record in the finals

While they’re new to the European big nights, Atalanta have seen a fair share of title-deciding moments throughout their modest history. 

Ominously for La Dea fans, they’ve often ended up on the receiving end of high-octane match-ups that made history. 

Except for the 1962/63 Coppa Italia triumph, they’ve lost all five remaining showpiece contests, including three in the last five years.

Let’s see if they can free themselves of these shackles and become the first side to get the better of Leverkusen this season.

‘Neverlusen’ mentality

Xabi Alonso’s high-flyers don’t know when they’re beaten, and their outrageous scoring exploits in games’ dying embers best illustrate their unparalleled mental fortitude. 

Atalanta’s domestic rivals Roma were the latest team to fall victim to Die Werkself’s late comebacks, spurning a two-goal cushion in a dramatic 2-2 draw in the return leg of their Europa League semi-final tie.

Josip Stanisic’s 97th-minute equaliser helped Leverkusen set a new European record of 49 matches unbeaten and was their 17th goal in second-half stoppage time this term.

Battle of heavy-hitters

Gianluca Scamacca was the scourge of Liverpool in the quarter-finals, netting a match-winning double in Atalanta’s stunning 3-0 first-leg victory at Anfield. 

The ex-West Ham United flop has tallied five goals in this season’s Europa League knockout stage, upholding his sterling record of never losing when scoring in continental action (W7, D3). 

Scamacca has bagged six European goals this term, one more than Leverkusen’s formidable duo Victor Boniface and Patrick Schick, who have netted five each.

But whoever starts for the Bundesliga powerhouse in the final will be well-positioned to at least draw level with the Italian striker. 

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