El Tigre (The Tiger) and El Rey Leon (The Lion King), otherwise known as Radamel Falcao and Fernando Llorente, go head to head as they look to guide their teams to a much coveted trophy tonight. So far this season these two have feasted on defences in Spain and around Europe. Now they take their hunting to Bucharest, venue of the Europa League Final.
Falcao is in his first season with Atleti since signing from FC Porto for a hefty €40m. He’s paid that off this season however, not just with goals but an admirable contribution to a hard working unit that Diego Simeone has devised. The Colombian striker has hit 33 goals this season; 23 of those in La Liga and the other 10 in this competition. Last season while with Porto, he managed 17 goals in the Europa League and now sits 3rd on the all-time Europa League top scorers list. It’s a phenomenal record from a player who has shown to be lethal with his feet, and head.
As previously mentioned, his goalscoring feats haven’t been the only aspect of his game which have made the Atleti fans adore him. He’s a selfless component in attack, and along with the livewire Adrián both players are competent in tracking back, and linking play from deep. Falcao’s price tag hasn’t weighed him down one bit, and if there is a loose ball that needs chasing down he’ll do so - this other side to his game has shown his strength and work ethic attributes, not just the grace he moves with when circling the penalty area.
His attitude towards the team was summed up in his pre-match press conference, Falcao stressing that though it’s a great feeling to score, the team winning is far more important. The driven and committed Argentinean coach Diego Simeone will be delighted with this attitude from ‘El Tigre’ who in Romania’s capital will be on the hunt again.
To score first Falcao is 4.00, anytime 2.20 and to score a header 5.50.
On the other side, for Athletic, will be Llorente. One of the striking images of this season was the giant striker in tears on the San Mamés turf in the semi-final; exhausted and overcome with emotion, he broke down in front of the adoring Basque masses. An image that showed how much this club, and this competition, means.
When he’s not doing that, Llorente is doing what he does best – being a handful in the penalty area. He always has been, but the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as Athletic coach changed the striker more than most. Llorente had always been a handful, but appeared static at times while his team worked tirelessly to support him.
However, Bielsa insisted he would have to change and become more aggressive in his work for the team. It has seen Llorente become more positionally adept, and tactically rounded, understanding the duties of this teammates and what he must do to benefit them for the good of the team. We’ve seen him drop deep on occasions, and switch into wide areas before following his passes up with timely runs into the area. The attributes he already possessed have been improved too, as operates with fantastic awareness in the penalty area, and makes himself a threat facing or back to goal. Like Falcao, he can use his feet too, but the head is an incredible weapon.
He’s managed 28 goals this season, with 5 of them in the Europa League. The development of his game helped with getting 3 assists in this competition, making him involved with 8 goals the last 7 games. His contribution to the team will be needed on Wednesday as he looks to guide the Basque club to an historic triumph, and make the National Stadium his den.
Llorente to score first is 5.00, anytime 2.35 and with a header 5.00. He’s 4.00 to score more goals than Falcao, who in turn is at 3.20 to score more.