Bielsa: Europa defeat 'irreversible'
Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa has warned his players there will be no chance for revenge if his side fail to beat fellow Spaniards Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Europa League final.
While Atletico are appearing in their second major final in three years having won the competition in 2010, Athletic's last chance at European glory came in 1977 when they lost a two-leg UEFA Cup final to Juventus on away goals.
On paper, there is very little to separate the sides. Atletico have the edge in the Spanish league - they sit fifth, five places above their Basque opponents - although Athletic have been one of the strongest teams in the competition this season.
A former coach of Argentina, Bielsa will come up against one of his former players in Diego Simeone, who took over as coach of Atletico in December. And although the pair have stood yards from each other on the touchline during Spanish league games, Bielsa reiterated the "unique" aspect of Wednesday's game.
"When you're going into a match in which the result is irreversible, and at the end of the competition, a lot of the same feelings come to the surface - desire, ambition, anxiety," said the Argentine handler. "But the main thing is to give as much as we can against our opponents, it's the only way we have a chance of emerging from the match with something positive.
"The Spanish league games are like links in a series of matches that allow you to adapt and make small adjustments," he went on. "A final is unique, and irreversible. That's the main difference. The result will be set in stone, and that's what gives it extra special value."
Athletic underlined their ambitions by eliminating Manchester United in the round of 16, ending Sir Alex Ferguson's hopes of making amends for their UEFA Champions League exit by winning the tournament. They went on to oust Schalke 04 in the quarter-finals and Sporting Lisbon in the semis to book their first European final since the 1976-77 UEFA Cup, when Juventus prevailed, winning a two-leg final on away goals.
Bielsa has also put Athletic in with a chance of a rare double; they will meet Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) on 25 May.
Atletico striker Falcao, who has scored ten goals in the competition so far, and his Athletic counterpart Fernando Llorente, who has bagged seven, will be expected to play decisive roles in the Romanian capital.
Bielsa admits he is relieved that his side are neither too excited nor too nervous on what will be his squad's first major European final. "I think my squad have learned how to adapt to preparing for such a big occasion," he said.
"I would say they're somewhere in between being anxious and calm. When it's like that, it bodes well for the match," he added. "But we'll only really see how they are once the game gets underway."
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