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Lookman To Face Boniface, Tella For Europa League Trophy

The final of the 2024 Europa League has three Nigerians chasing glory at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in Ireland on Wednesday (today) when German champions Bayer Leverkusen take on Italian side Atalanta.

The Super Eagles stars convene in Dublin, where Leverkusen will try to complete the second leg of an incredible treble, while Atalanta are seeking to win their first-ever European trophy.

A fortnight ago, trio Ademola Lookman, Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella all saw their clubs make their way to the final of this year’s Europa League final with high-flying German champions Bayer Leverkusen coming from behind to draw Roma 2-2 at BayArena in the second leg of the semi-finals of the competition.

Having taken a giant stride towards meeting either Marseille or Atalanta in the final by running out 2-0 winners at Stadio Olimpico, the Germans fell behind to two goals but showed the resilience that had seen them go 51 games unbeaten across all competitions and scored two late goals to advance to the final.

While Boniface was an unused substitute in the second leg, Tella was brought on by Xabi Alonso and the Nigerian played a role in the build-up to the late equaliser.

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

In the other semi-finals, Lookman stole the show with his impressive performance, scoring a goal and providing an assist as Atalanta defeated French giants Marseille 4-1 on aggregate to play in their first-ever Europa League title.

A win will also see the Italians claim their first silverware in 61 years, having lost the Italian Cup final to Juventus this season.

Lookman has been in fine form for the Black and Blues with 20-goal contributions (12 goals and eight assists) and is an integral part of the side that have extended their unbeaten away run in Europe to 12 matches – including last month’s superb 3-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

The former Leicester City man recently broke his Europe goal jinx and will hope to end Leverkusen’s 51 games without defeat.

Atalanta’s last meeting with Leverkusen came in the 2021/22 Europa League when they won 3-2 at home before losing by a single goal one week later in Germany – but the stakes will be far higher this evening.

While the two clubs are chasing records, it will also be a night to remember for Nigerians as at least one Nigerian is bound to have a feel of the coveted trophy regardless of the result.

In recent times, Nigerians have enjoyed relative success in Europe’s second-tier league, with Samuel Chukwueze the last Nigerian to win the tournament in 2021. The AC Milan winger was then with Villarreal, who defeated Manchester United 11-10 on penalties following a 1-1 draw during regulation and extra time.

Spartak Moscow forward Victor Moses holds the record for the only Nigerian who has won the competition twice in 2012/13 and 2018/19 with Chelsea, the latter triumph a 4-1 win at the expense of eternal rivals Arsenal, whose only goal was courtesy fellow Nigerian Alex Iwobi.

Mikel Obi (Chelsea) also won it once in the 2012/13 season.

In 2022, Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey were runners-up following Glasgow Rangers’ defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties in Seville, Spain.

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