Europa League Diary: Garcia reveals his sweet tooth, Mandanda a fanzone attraction

By Sports Desk May 16, 2018

Nerves are natural ahead of a major European final, but neither Atletico Madrid nor Marseille showed much in the way of apprehension ahead of Wednesday's showpiece in Lyon. 

The Europa League probably means more to Marseille, as it provides them with a direct route into the Champions League, which Atletico have already secured a place in for next season courtesy of their position in LaLiga.

But both camps were predominantly smiling and joking as they faced the media on Tuesday, with Lyon a hive of activity on Wednesday as fans took in the sights before the serious stuff gets going.



The locals say that if you skip lunch, you're not from Lyon, and food has a particular importance for Marseille coach Rudi Garcia.

Asked at a media conference on Tuesday what is the key to him avoiding stress, Garcia said: "Dark chocolate, 70 per cent."

Only the best for the boss, clearly.


Place Bellecour is the venue for UEFA's Europa League village and there is plenty to amuse supporters in the hours leading up to kick-off.

There's a stage for live music, various challenges, including one involving shooting at a huge dartboard, and a giant replica of the trophy.

Fans can even slot their face into a photo of their favourite team, and who could pass up the opportunity to be side by side - sort of - with Steve Mandanda.


You won't find Marseille fans frequenting Lyon's official store, but Atletico supporters welcomed the opportunity to add the jersey of Les Gones to their collection at the club's shop just off Place Bellecour.

Nabil Fekir's name and number were plastered on the back of the new home kit on display, but purchasing the playmaker's jersey may be risky, given rumours of a move to Liverpool.

But even if Fekir does depart, at least Lyon fans have some club-branded wine and beer to drown their sorrows with.


Fans looking to take in a game well before kick-off were able to as a group of amputee footballers faced off on a small pitch in the fan village.

And those who watched were treated to some silky skills. 


An unsurprisingly popular choice for fans enjoying some tourism is the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere, which is perched perfectly on a hill, the terraces surrounding it providing spectacular panoramic views of the city.

The climb to get there is challenging, but probably not as difficult as the task Marseille have in attempting to breach Atletico's much-vaunted defence.

Fourviere is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is credited with saving the city on multiple occasions.

Winning the Europa League is unlikely to merit Garcia the reward of having a Basilica named after him but, if the 54-year-old can lead Marseille to glory and back into the Champions League, he will be viewed by many as a saviour of this proud club.

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