Bayer Leverkusen vs Atalanta preview & predicted XI: Boniface, Tella go head-to-head with Lookman for UEL glory

Bayer Leverkusen, newly crowned Bundesliga champions, stand on the cusp of a historic double as they face Atalanta in the Europa League final on Wednesday night in Dublin.

This season has been a dream run for Xabi Alonso's side. They shattered Bayern Munich's 11-year stranglehold on the German title and etched their name in Bundesliga history by becoming the first team to go unbeaten throughout the entire 61-year existence of the league. As if that wasn't enough, they've also secured a spot in the German Cup final, putting themselves in contention for a remarkable treble.

Their never dying spirit has earned them the fitting nickname “Bayer Neverlusen” – a stark contrast to their previous reputation for falling short in crucial moments. Atalanta will need everything in their arsenal to break Leverkusen's seemingly unbreakable momentum. The German side boasts a European record of 51 games unbeaten, a streak stretching all the way back to August.

Several teams have come agonizingly close to handing Leverkusen their first defeat, but with a staggering 17 goals scored in or after the 90th minute this season, Leverkusen's relentless spirit and never-say-die attitude have seen them pull off improbable victories.

Adding another layer of intrigue to this final is the presence of three Nigerian players. Ademola Lookman, the star of Atalanta's semi-final win against Marseille with a goal and an assist, will find himself facing compatriots Nathan Tella and Victor Boniface, who play for Leverkusen. Lookman's impressive performance secured Atalanta's place in the Europa League final, while Tella and Boniface saw limited playing time in Leverkusen's semi-final victory over Roma.

With so much at stake and a potential double on the horizon, this Europa League final promises to be a captivating clash. We'll go deeper into the Atalanta vs Bayer Leverkusen matchup, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and offer a prediction for this highly anticipated encounter.

Quick Stats

  •  Bundesliga champions Leverkusen are unbeaten all season, playing 51 games across all competitions without losing.
  • Atalanta are fifth in Serie A with two games to play, two points behind Juventus who have played a game more.
  • After topping Group H, Leverkusen beat Qarabag 5-4 on aggregate in the last 16, then West Ham 3-1 overall in the quarter-finals and Roma 4-2 on aggregate in the semis.
  • Atalanta finished first in Group D, then saw off Sporting Lisbon 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16, before a 3-1 overall success against Liverpool in the quarters and a 4-1 aggregate victory over Marseille followed.

Match preview

Harshly labelled ‘Neverkusen' when their team of 2001-02 finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen have this year set about disproving that unwanted tag in the most improbable style.

The UEFA Europa League final promises to be an epic clash between Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta, not just for the glory of continental victory, but also for the chance for three exciting Nigerian talents to etch their names in European football history.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atalanta preview & predicted XI: Boniface, Tella go head-to-head with Lookman for Europa League glory
Photo by Icon Sport

Victor Boniface has been a revelation for Leverkusen this season. The 23-year-old striker has emerged as a key component of Xabi Alonso's title-winning machine, contributing a remarkable 21 goals and 10 assists across all competitions. His ability to find the net and create chances for his teammates has been instrumental in Leverkusen's dominant Bundesliga run and their impressive European journey.

Boniface's clutch moments throughout the season have been particularly noteworthy. His clinical finishing and attacking prowess will undoubtedly be a major threat to Atalanta's defense in the final.

Alongside Boniface, another exciting young Nigerian talent has been making waves at Leverkusen: Nathan Tella. The 24-year-old winger has impressed with his pace, dribbling skills, and ability to create opportunities for his teammates. While his goal tally of seven might seem overshadowed by Boniface's exploits, Tella's contribution extends far beyond the scoresheet.

Tella's creativity and attacking flair have been a valuable asset for Leverkusen throughout the Europa League campaign. His ability to torment defenders and set up goals for his teammates has been a key factor in Leverkusen's attacking success. Look for Tella to use his speed and agility to exploit any weaknesses in Atalanta's defense during the final.

Across the field, Ademola Lookman will be looking to lead Atalanta to their first major European trophy. The 26-year-old winger has been a consistent performer for Gian Piero Gasperini's side, contributing to 20 goals in 42 appearances across all competitions. Lookman's ability to take on defenders, create scoring opportunities, and find the net himself makes him a vital cog in Atalanta's attacking machinery.

Lookman's experience in big matches will be invaluable for Atalanta in the final. He has already played a crucial role in their Europa League campaign, and his leadership on the pitch will be essential as they face the challenge of a resurgent Leverkusen side.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atalanta preview & predicted XI: Boniface, Tella go head-to-head with Lookman for Europa League glory
Photo by Icon Sport

With so much at stake and the potential to become European champions, these three Nigerian players are poised to play starring roles in the upcoming Europa League final. Their attacking prowess, creativity, and determination will be on full display as they aim to guide their respective teams to continental glory. The battle between Boniface and Tella on one side and Lookman on the other promises to be a thrilling subplot within the larger narrative of this historic European encounter.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atalanta H2H 

March 2022: Bayer 04 Leverkusen 0-1 Atalanta

March 2022: Atalanta 3-2 Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atalanta prediction

The UEFA Europa League final in Dublin promises a captivating clash between two in-form sides. Bayer Leverkusen, riding a historic 51-game unbeaten run in all competitions, will be looking to cap off a remarkable season with a second trophy – and potentially a treble – when they face Atalanta on Wednesday.

Leverkusen's dominance under Xabi Alonso has been nothing short of extraordinary. They've already secured the Bundesliga title and now set their sights on continental glory. Their road to Dublin wasn't without challenges – thrilling comebacks against Qarabag and Roma in the knockout stages showcased their resilience. This unwavering determination makes them clear favorites for the final.

Atalanta, however, are no pushovers. Gian Piero Gasperini's attacking outfit has also displayed impressive form throughout the Europa League. They boast a perfect record of scoring in all but one match, finding the net 22 times in total. Impressive victories over Sporting Lisbon, Liverpool, and Marseille demonstrate their attacking prowess and determination.

The Italian side will undoubtedly be looking to spoil Leverkusen's dream of an invincible season. While Atalanta may struggle to completely shut out the prolific German offense, their attacking threat guarantees an exciting and potentially high-scoring encounter.

Despite the slight favoritism towards Leverkusen, fueled by their unbeaten streak and title success, the final promises to be a close battle between two European powerhouses. Can Atalanta upset the odds and claim their first major European trophy? Or will Leverkusen's relentless march towards an invincible treble culminate in Europa League glory? The Aviva Stadium awaits a thrilling spectacle that will see both sides vying for a historic night in Dublin.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Atalanta predicted line-up

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Musso; Djimsiti, Hien, Scalvini; Zappacosta, Pasalic, Ederson, Ruggeri; Koopmeiners, Lookman; Scamacca

Bayer Leverkusen possible starting lineup:
Kovar; Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie; Frimpong, Xhaka, Andrich, Grimaldo; Hofmann, Wirtz; Boniface

A touch of Nigerian history

While the spotlight shines brightly on the current crop of Nigerian footballers aiming to make their mark in Europe, it's worth noting that this competition has witnessed Nigerian triumphs before. In 1998, Nigerian icons Nwankwo Kanu and Taribo West were part of the Inter Milan squad that conquered Europe, lifting the trophy then known as the UEFA Cup.

The 21st century has seen a continuation of this Nigerian success story in the Europa League. John Obi Mikel, a crucial member of Chelsea's 2012 Champions League-winning squad, became only the second African player to achieve the prestigious feat of winning both major European titles when he secured the Europa League trophy with the Blues a year later in 2013. While an unused substitute in the final, Mikel's contribution throughout the season was undeniable.

His teammate, Victor Moses, also enjoyed Europa League glory with Chelsea in 2013 during his first season at the club. Moses thrived in a more attacking role, contributing five goals on the road to the title.

Another Nigerian champion is Chidi Odiah, who excelled with CSKA Moscow for eight years. Odiah was part of the CSKA side that lifted the UEFA Cup in 2005, defeating Sporting Lisbon in the final. He played a key role in the midfield alongside his compatriot Joseph Enakarhire, who featured for Sporting Lisbon in that match.

The most recent Nigerian to conquer the Europa League is Samuel Chukwueze, who achieved this feat with Villarreal in 2021. These talented Nigerian footballers have left their mark on the competition, inspiring the likes of Victor Boniface, Nathan Tella, and Ademola Lookman, who will be hoping to continue this legacy of Nigerian excellence on the European stage.

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Toyosi Afolayan

Toyosi Afolayan is a sports journalist who breathes life into the games we love. He loves to combine insightful analysis with historical background, creating a richer understanding of sports. Afolayan's expertise ranges from captivating narratives to live broadcasts, captivating audiences across platforms like Ojbsport, AllNigeriaSoccer, TVC Entertainment, Bounce Networks, Kwara TV, ICIR, EaglesTracker, and NFF TV. His background in History and International Studies adds depth, revealing the connections between sports, politics, and national identity.