Star strikers, Spanish sides square off in Europa League final

Star strikers, Spanish sides square off in Europa League final

European Soccer

Star strikers, Spanish sides square off in Europa League final

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Falcao (Getty Images)

Either way, a Spanish side will be lifting a trophy in Romania today, as Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao tangle for the UEFA Europa League championship (2:45 p.m., DirecTV/7 p.m. replay, GOLTV).

For Atletico Madrid, led by red-hot Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, the match marks a chance to win the Europa League for the second time in three years. Departures of Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero have not held Madrid's second-best team back, as Falcao's 33 goals in all competitions — including 10 in the Europa League — have led the team to within two points of a Champions League berth in La Liga.

Athletic Bilbao, guided by coach Marcelo Bielsa, is on the cusp of their first European trophy. The club has become an offensive powerhouse as well, especially in the knockout phase of this tournament. Led by Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, who has 28 goals in all competitions, Bilbao hung five goals on Manchester United in the Round of 16, six on Schalke in the quarterfinals and another four on Sporting Lisbon in a come-from-behind effort to get out of the semifinals.

The clubs split their two regular-season meetings, with Bilbao taking a 3-0 result on Oct. 27 behind two Llorente goals, and Madrid winning their March 21 matchup 2-1 behind two Falcao strikes.

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