Xabi Alonso praises Gian Piero Gasperini and hails Atalanta as ‘one of the toughest opponents’

50 games unbeaten. Bayer Leverkusen are just three games away from immortality. But despite their Bundesliga game against Augsburg this weekend, focus is on their Europa League final against Atalanta, coached by Gian Piero Gasperini.

Speaking at Wednesday’s media day, Alonso praised Italian side Atalanta, who have knocked out Sporting CP, Liverpool and Marseille on their way to the Europa League final.

“Atalanta are currently one of the toughest opponents in Europe,” said Alonso.

The 42-year-old also praised his counterpart, Gasperini.

“He has a clear plan and built up a team with strong mentality and high quality in depth. They are a top team. We’ll have a chance if we produce our best form. It will be a great final, very tight and interesting for the fans,” added Alonso.

A first European final since 2002

Two late goals from Patrik Schick against Qarabag in March secured a place in the Europa League quarter-finals for Alonso’s Leverkusen. A 3-1 aggregate win against West Ham, Bayer then faced arguably their toughest test yet in Europe, a repeat of last season’s semi-final.

Seeking revenge on AS Roma, goals from Florian Wirtz and Robert Andrich secured a famous 2-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico but despite being in the driving seat, B04 found themselves 2-0 down in the second-leg at the BayArena. That was of course until Gianluca Mancini put the ball in his own net eight minutes from time, before Josip Stanišić scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time to secure Bayer Leverkusen’s first European final since 2002.

GGFN | Daniel Pinder


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