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Xabi Alonso praises Atalanta: “One of the toughest opponents in Europe”

On Wednesday, Bayer 04 will play Atalanta Bergamo in Dublin in the Europa League final. Coach Xabi Alonso speaks with the utmost respect for the Italians, who Leverkusen deserved to lose to in the round of 16 in 2022, but sees a decisive difference

The memories of March 2022 have not yet faded. And they are not the most pleasant. Bayer 04 lost both games against Atalanta Bergamo in the round of 16 of the Europa League. 2:3 in northern Italy, 0:1 in the BayArena. “It was one of my toughest games. They’re a very good team. They are tactically very good and have very good players,” said attacker Amine Adli, referring to the games in which Atalanta showed the Werkself the limits, “when they are in the final, everyone knows that they are very good.”

There should be no doubt about that. After all, the 3-2 defeat in the first leg was even flattering. A tactically overstretched Bayer team only escaped a debacle against the Ligurians, who pressed hard and switched gears brilliantly, thanks to an outstanding Lukas Hradecky in goal. The ratio of chances was 4:11 and 5:3 in the two matches

Xabi Alonso: “We’re expecting a great final. It will be very close “

Now the two teams will meet in the Europa League final. And Gian Piero Gasperini is still at the helm of Atalanta, who are in fifth place in Serie A and have a very good chance of qualifying for the Champions League. A colleague who Xabi Alonso raves about just as highly as his team.

“For me, they are one of the toughest opponents in Europe. They have a great mentality, a coach who knows very clearly what he wants. They have a broad squad, they play very intensely,” said the Basque, paying homage to his final rivals, “and every game against Atalanta is very tough for any opponent. We’re expecting a great final. It will be very close. “

Atalanta were convincing even at Anfield Road

There are all kinds of reasons for this respect. Bergamo beat Sporting Lisbon (1:1; 2:1), Liverpool FC (3:0; 0:1) and Olympique Marseille (1:1; 3:0) in the knockout round. This is not the only reason why Xabi Alonso’s conclusion is clear: “They deserved to progress against Marseille and Lisbon. They are a top team for me.” Who were highly efficient in their 3-0 win at Anfield Road against superior Reds.

A grown entity. Tactically unpleasant. Strong in pressing and transitional play. With a lot of pace in offense and high efficiency. A mix that can also make things difficult for the favorites Leverkusen. Because many processes have been ingrained for years

Bayer coach expects no surprise effect

But none of this worries Bayer, even with a view to the round of 16 in 2022. “The idea, the concept of Atalanta is not the same, but it’s the same coach and many of the players from back then,” said Xabi Alonso, “they’re not an opponent we don’t know. Many players have played against them. It’s nothing new what we expect in Dublin.”

The 42-year-old therefore does not expect there to be a big surprise effect on Wednesday. At least not for his team, he adds confidently: “But we are a different team.” Which his players have impressively underlined, and not just with their run of 51 competitive games without defeat.

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