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Atalanta make their own history in Europa League; Barcelona chase another Women’s Champions League title

Happy Friday! One major European final is officially in the books with Atalanta’s win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League, and between the FA Cup and the UEFA Women’s Champions League, there’s plenty more in store this weekend. I’m Pardeep Cattry with the latest.

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Friday, May 24
🇺🇸 NWSL: Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns, 7 p.m. ➡️ NWSL+

Saturday, May 25
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 FA Cup: Manchester City vs. Manchester United, 10 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇪🇺 UWCL: Barcelona vs. Lyon, 12 p.m. ➡️ DAZN
🇩🇪 DFB Pokal: Kaiserslautern vs. Leverkusen, 2 p.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Milan vs. Salernitana, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Inter Miami, 10:30 p.m. ➡️ Apple TV+

Sunday, May 26
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Championship playoffs: Leeds vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ➡️ ESPN+
🇮🇹 Serie A: Hellas Verona vs. Inter, 2:45 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

⚽ The Forward Line

🔵⚫ Atalanta make history

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The underdogs prevailed in Dublin on Wednesday, when Atalanta snapped Bayer Leverkusen’s 51 match winning streak in style with a 3-0 win to take home the Europa League trophy. The unlikely victory came courtesy of a hattrick from Ademola Lookman, who became the first person to score three times in a Europa League final.

Lookman’s first goal came in the 12th minute and set the tone for the remainder of the match, in which Atalanta let Leverkusen have the ball but never relinquished momentum and were ultimately more clinical. The goalscorer had one of the best performances of his career and was emblematic of an Atalanta team that got everything right, according to Mike Grella.

  • Grella: “[There was] so much hard work around [Lookman] to put him in those situations, 1-v-1. I think he [had] four successful dribbles out of six. He was just beating his defender all the time and his finishing is fantastic. You find a lot of wingers that hold all the tools but then maybe the finishing, they don’t, but he finishes like a No. 9. He’s just one piece of an Atalanta side, though, that I thought was just perfect on the night — really, really good stuff. … You talk about the nerves and you talk about different moments, Lookman did not make any mistakes.”

There were plenty of reasons for Atalanta to feel triumphant on Wednesday. The club won their first European title and only their second-ever trophy, the first coming in a Coppa Italia victory six decades earlier. The victory in Dublin marked a high point for a club that began an aspirational rebuild several years ago, which Francesco Porzio notes included a varied cast of characters including an ex-player, American investors and respected manager Gian Piero Gasperini, who won his first-ever trophy.

  • Porzio: “Former club player and Italian businessman Antonio Percassi decided to buy the club back in 2010 and the fortunes changed for the better, and lately, it’s been with big American influence. From that moment on everything changed for the team based in the north of Italy and just a one-hour drive from Milan. Atalanta started from zero and struggled for some years until manager Gasperini was appointed in 2016. The former Genoa coach created one of the most interesting projects of Italian soccer, based on young players from the academy and great scouting by the club directors during the past years. It worked so well that Atalanta reached Champions League soccer four times in recent years, including when they lost to PSG in the quarterfinals of the 2019-20 edition.”

The history-making win means Atalanta will return to the Champions League next season, which will offer them the latest chance to chart their admirable upward trajectory into the top ranks of European soccer.

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Sponsored by Paramount+

🔗  Midfield Link Play

🏆 Barcelona, Lyon chase UWCL glory

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UEFA’s next trophy presentation comes on Saturday, when Barcelona and Lyon will duke it out in Bilbao to win the Women’s Champions League in a battle between women’s soccer’s old and new powerhouses.

Barcelona return to the showcase a year after winning the title and remain the gold standard in a new age of the women’s game, thanks in large part to their star-studded roster. Aitana Bonmati is still at the top of her game after her unprecedented trophy haul in 2023 and has five goals this season, while Caroline Graham Hansen has matched that tally. If anyone’s having a breakout season, though, it’s 20-year-old Salma Paralluelo. She went from making a name for herself with 15 goals in 30 games last season to becoming a go-to goalscorer this season, with 32 goals in 34 games. She also  leads her team with six goals in the competition, emerging as the latest attacking star for a goalscoring juggernaut.

They will be eyeing revenge against Lyon, who beat them 3-1 in the 2022 final to win a record eight UWCL title. The French champions were once the definition of excellence in Europe, but in the face of increased investment and competition from around the continent, they have demonstrated an ability to keep pace. Kadidiatou Diani leads the competition with eight goals while Ada Hegerberg has five of her own, allowing Lyon to make their way to Saturday’s final with relative ease. U.S. women’s national team captain Lindsey Horan is also amongst the standouts, and will aim for her second Champions League winners’ medal.

Saturday’s match is expected to be the latest example of the increasingly competitive nature of the women’s game, and not just on the pitch. Barcelona manager Jonatan Girladez and Lyon counterpart Sonia Bompastor take new high-profile jobs this summer — the former has already announced that he will join the NWSL’s Washington Spirit and the latter is expected to replace Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Their moves demonstrate the ambition of clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, and will also provide the latest test of Barcelona and Lyon’s abilities to maintain their high standing under new leadership.

🔗  Top Stories

🏆 Atalanta’s perfect night: Here’s more on Atalanta’s win over Leverkusen, in which Gasperini and company put on a perfect display against the seemingly unbeatable opposition.

🇺🇸 Hayes officially begins: Emma Hayes is making the rounds after officially assuming her role as the USWNT head coach, and said her primary focus for the national team is to guide them amidst the changing landscape in women’s soccer.

🪑 Managerial musical chairs: Thiago Motta is inching closer to becoming the Juventus coach, Vincent Kompany is in advanced talks to take the Bayern Munich job, Hansi Flick is emerging as a leading contender to succeed Xavi at BarcelonaMauricio Pochettino is being linked to the England role, and Eric ten Hag’s days at Manchester United increasingly seem numbered.

🟨 Paqueta charged: The FA charged West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta with four significant breaches of its gambling rules, alleging that he intentionally sought yellow cards on four occasions.

🔴🔵 Lewandowski on Mbappe: Robert Lewandowski said he is not “scared” about Real Madrid’s potential to overshadow Barcelona with Kylian Mbappe’s impending arrival.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

  • FA Cup final: Manchester City vs. Manchester United, Saturday, 10 a.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Manchester City to win 3-0 (+850)
    — Manchester City have scored three goals in both of their previous games against their rivals this season, and there’s little to suggest that they can’t do it again on Saturday. Expect the motivation that carried City into their fourth successive Premier League title to deliver the goods one last time before the summer, especially if Phil Foden and Erling Haaland are in the lineup.
  • DFB Pokal final: Kaiserslautern vs. Bayer Leverkusen, Saturday, 2 p.m.
  • 💰 THE PICK: Florian Wirtz to score (+135)Their 51 game unbeaten run may officially be over, but Leverkusen can still end their season on a high with their first DFB Pokal in three decades. They are the heavy favorites against second division side Kaiserslautern, so expect a handful of Leverkusen’s best to get on the scoresheet. That includes Florian Wirtz, who was the star of their historic show this season.

📺 What’s on CBS Sports Golazo Network

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☀️ Morning Footy (Weekdays 8-10 a.m.): Hosts Susannah Collins, Charlie Davies, Nico Cantor and Alexis Guerreros help fans get their day started on the network’s flagship morning show with highlights, interviews and the biggest soccer storylines. Morning Footy is also available in podcast form, so you’ll never have to miss an episode.

📦 Box 2 Box (Weekday afternoons): The news-driven show quickly recaps all the latest headlines from around the world with panelists previewing the top matchups of the day. Catch Box 2 Box on CBS Sports Golazo Network on the CBS Sports app, PlutoTV and Paramount+. 

3️⃣ Attacking Third (Monday, Thursday): The leading women’s soccer podcast and social brand is now a live studio show. The NWSL season is back and our coverage of the women’s game is stronger than ever. Our analysts will be breaking down the USWNT, NWSL and European domestic season all year long.

👟 Kickin’ It (Tuesdays): CBS Sports Golazo Network’s unfiltered interview show releases Tuesday. Hosted by Kate Abdo, Clint Dempsey, Mo Edu and Charlie Davies, the group chat candidly with the biggest names from the Beautiful Game and share their stories from on and off the pitch. 

Call it What You Want (Monday night): A weekly podcast where Jimmy Conrad, Charlie Davies and friends cover all things USMNT and the state of the beautiful game in the United States.

🥅 Scoreline (Daily): Scoreline is the newest place for fans to catch up on all the biggest news and results impacting global football, match highlights from the top soccer competitions and all the can’t-miss goals from the day’s action, starting Thursday and airing seven days a week.

📺 How to watch: CBS Sports Golazo Network is a free 24/7 channel exclusively dedicated to offering unparalleled coverage of all the top soccer competitions worldwide. You can stream for free on the CBS Sports appPluto TV and Paramount+.

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