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The Europa League doesn’t count for much these days; that’s what some keep saying, anyway. But tell it to fans of Liverpool, who watched horrified through slits between their fingers as their side let a lead slip in the final against Sevilla in 2016. Or of Manchester United, who wildly celebrated the completion of their European curriculum vitae this time last year against Ajax. Or of Arsenal, who would have moved heaven and earth to give Arsène Wenger an appropriate send-off tonight. Yeah, it still counts for something all right. Don’t let the naysayers prevail.
The 2018 final will be contested by between two clubs with a proper European pedigree. Marseille conquered the continent in 1993, the very first victors of the Champions League era. Atlético Madrid by comparison don’t have a European Cup to their name, despite coming within a minute of victory in 1974 and 2014, and losing a penalty shoot-out in 2016 … but they do have the 1962 Cup Winners Cup plus two Europa League triumphs in 2010 and 2012 to soften the blow.