This Thursday, these two teams will be fighting for the same honour but for completely different reasons.
Chelsea’s clinching third place this season are guaranteed a spot in the Champion’s League next season. However, their performances in the Premier League have been disappointing to say the least and this is Chelsea’s last chance at silverware and more importantly, Maurizio Sarri’s last chance to prove to Roman Abramovich that he is worthy of keeping his job.
After a tumultuous campaign that saw them finish fifth, Arsenal are looking to join their fellow finalists in returning to the highest tier of European football and winning the Europa League is the only way they can do so. Unai Emery and Co. will need to pull out all the stops for this match if they don’t want to go back to playing on Thursday nights next season.
With so much on the line for both sides, whoever walks out of Baku with the trophy will not just be crowned ‘King of the B-sides’, it will define the upcoming season ahead.
It is hard however, to call a winner now because both London teams look equal on paper. In the last two encounters, Chelsea won their home game against Arsenal 3-2 back in August 2018 while Arsenal won theirs 2-0 in January this year.
In terms of their Europa League fortunes, both clubs have had decent luck as Chelsea have been unbeaten in the competition since 2013 while Arsenal’s Spanish manager Unai Emery has won it three times consecutively with Sevilla in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Both sides also have similarly impressive goals tally with Chelsea scoring 32 and Arsenal scoring 29. Furthermore, both have only conceded nine times each in the last 14 games. It will be hard to set these two apart when they meet in the finals as their outstanding run of form in the competition make them both worthy of winning the final.
The teams’ individual talents could be the crucial difference in the game. Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud has 10 goals, the highest in the competition while Arsenal’s pacey Gabonese striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has eight to his name.
Additionally, Chelsea has a more stable defence than Arsenal and the Gunners can be prone to schoolboy errors at the back as can be seen many times throughout the season.
Eden Hazard, who has been consistently linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, could be the key man for the Blues as he would want to end his Chelsea career on a high note by winning them the game and the trophy.
Chelsea’s midfield destroyer, N’Golo Kante could miss the game after picking up a knee injury and missing training. However, he’s been included in the squad to travel to Azerbaijan and if he doesn’t feature, Arsenal’s attacking duo of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette could do some serious damage while taking the pressure off their leaky defence in the process.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek ruptured his achilles a few weeks back in a friendly match and may not be able to cover for Kante, and thus leaving Chelsea without any muscle in midfield to protect their centre backs. Perhaps hosting a friendly before the Europa League was a bad idea and Chelsea could ultimately pay the price for their costly error.
Nonetheless, the odds seem to be in Chelsea’s favour as the bookmakers have given them a higher probability (7/5) of winning than Arsenal (2/1) but unlike Manchester City’s thrashing of Watford in the FA Cup final, this game will surely provide us with an entertaining finale to the Europa League campaign.Leave a comment