May 15, 2018 / 6:07 PM / 10 months ago

Payet says he is fit to play in Europa League final

LYON (Reuters) - Olympique de Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet said on Tuesday he is fit to play in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid but admitted he will face a testing night trying to pick holes in the Spanish side’s famously robust defence.

Soccer Football - Ligue 1 - Olympique de Marseille vs OGC Nice - Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France - May 6, 2018 Marseille's Dimitri Payet celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

Payet, who has propelled Marseille to the final with three goals and six assists in the knockout stages, missed Friday’s Ligue 1 match at Guingamp with an unspecified injury and had been considered slightly doubtful for the game in Lyon.

“I feel a lot better - yes, I feel I can play tomorrow,” he told reporters.

“I’ve been feeling very good, especially since the beginning of 2018. I haven’t changed anything except I have been injured less and when you have no injuries it’s much easier to play and feel better on the pitch.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone identified the France international as the brains behind Marseille’s attack and the man his side will need to stop as they target a first trophy since 2014.

“Payet dictates the team’s rhythm with whatever comes into his head and the speed of his feet. It will be an intense game and we’ll try to make sure it’s played in the way that best suits us,” he said.

Atletico have only let in four goals in eight Europa League games and have the best defensive record in Spain, conceding 20 times in 37 Liga games.

Payet, who returned to Marseille in January 2017 after a successful yet troubled stint at West Ham United, urged his side to make the most of any chances that fall their way against Atletico and said they may have to win ugly.

“They have very few vulnerabilities, to be honest, there won’t be many gaps as they defend as a block, and the game is going to be about being fast and efficient in small spaces but we have the qualities to get through that defence,” Payet added.

“When you face such a team that don’t give you many chances, you need to score when you find a chance. It’s not going to be about looking good and playing beautiful football, we will have to be efficient and ensure that one goal is enough.”

Writing by Brian Homewood and Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis

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