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De Rossi: Atalanta can 'hold a candle' to Leverkusen

AS Roma coach Daniele De Rossi pictured before the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg match between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma  in the BayArena. Federico Gambarini/dpa

Roma coach Daniele De Rossi predicted a tricky task for Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League final against Atalanta on May 22.

Leverkusen beat Roma 4-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals after a late 2-2 draw in the home leg on Thursday. Italy's Atalanta defeated Marseille to reach their first ever European final.

"I think if there's one team that can match Leverkusen in terms of physicality, structure and attitude, then it's Gasperini's Atalanta," De Rossi told reporters.

"They have a technical and tactical structure, but also a physical strength that will definitely cause Bayer problems."

Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso, whose side won the 1988 UEFA Cup, took a similar view.

"It's no surprise to me that they're in the final," he said. "They've had a very strong team in recent years with Gasperini. They do a lot of special things tactically. It's going to be an intense final."

Gasperini took over the modest Bergamo side in 2016 and immediately led the team into Europe for the first time in 26 years. Since then, they have only missed out on qualifying for Europe once.

They beat mighty Liverpool in the last round and like Leverkusen have a domestic Cup final on the horizon too. They face Juventus next Wednesday while Alonso's Welkself meet Kaiserslautertern on May 25.

Leverkusen set a record of 49 games unbeaten across all competitions for teams also competing in Europe after a 97th-minute equalizer against Roma, who had been 2-0 up and level in the tie.

"We gave it our best shot and were well on our way to pulling off a real feat," De Rossi said. "But they were just too good. They deserved to go through to the final. Some seasons are simply blessed by God."

Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso (L) and AS Roma coach Daniele De Rossi embrace before the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg match between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma  in the BayArena. Federico Gambarini/dpa
Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso (L) and AS Roma coach Daniele De Rossi embrace before the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg match between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma in the BayArena. Federico Gambarini/dpa