Tomorrow night in Azerbaijan, an all English Europa league final between Arsenal and Chelsea will kick off at 8pm .
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a superb hat-trick to send Arsenal through to the final after a 4-2 win at Valencia and Chelsea beat Eintracht 4-3 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to progress to Europa League final after the two sides were locked together 2-2 on aggregate following extra time.
Tomorrow’s final has been marred with controversy from the location of the game, the lack of tickets for fans and more importantly the fact that Arsenal midfielder Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan will unable to play due to safety concerns because of the fractious nature of the relationship between his home country and their nearest neighbour Azerbaijan .Arsenal skipper Laurent Koscielny has been very vocal in slamming UEFA for the decision to hold the final in Baku.
He told the BBC: “I’m not very happy because we need to leave one player behind and he can’t play in the final. When one country has a political problem with another then UEFA shouldn’t give the final to that country”
“We want Mkhi with us because he is an important player for Arsenal. But we know about the problems and if he thinks he can’t be safe it’s better for him to stay here”
“This final is very far for the fans of both teams and it’s difficult and very expensive to travel to Baku. We will play the game but it’s not the final we dreamed of.”
In fact there has been much discussion on social media between fans about boycotting the game completely and calling for UEFA to move the final to Wembley.
But all of this noise takes away from the record breaking fact that this year, all European Finals feature English teams. Arsenal against Chelsea will be the second all-English UEFA Cup/Europa League final in history since Tottenham against Wolves in the UEFA Cup final in 1972. We can’t forget that it’s also a London derby and Arsenal would dearly love to beat Chelsea after finishing two places behind them in 5th position this season’s Premier League.
Arsenal has kept a clean sheet in this year’s Europa League winning all of their matches against Napoli and Valencia in the last 16 to reach tomorrow’s final. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang explosive partnership in the Valencia game could prove very difficult for Chelsea to contain. A win for them tomorrow night guarantee’s Champions League Football next season. It will signal a new record for their manager Unai Emery, who could become only the fourth manager to win the UEFA/Europa League with two different teams, after Giovanni Trapattoni,Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez.
Ahead of the game, Chelsea has racked up a growing list of injuries, including defender Rudiger is recovering from meniscus surgery, midfielder Loftus-Cheek and winger Hudson-Odoi are also out after Achilles surgery. N’Golo Kante has travelled to Azerbaijan but is has been reported that he has a twisted knee so there are serious concerns whether he will play at all. So it could be all down to the Belgian Eden Hazard but then again what’s new?! It could be the perfect farewell for the 28 year old who is rumoured to be moving to Real Madrid this summer, although he hasn’t scored in the last ten European games. He possesses the skill and timing to make his last appearance the most important of his career at Chelsea.
Hazard’s strike mate Olivier Giroud has scored 10 Europa League goals this season, the most by a Blues player in a single European season and the joint most by a French player in major European competition in a season – Nestor Combin in the 1963-64 Cup Winners’ Cup and Just Fontaine in the 1958-59 European Cup also scored 10. They are a formidable duo so Arsenal will have their work cut out to curb their efforts.
Chelsea are rightly the favourites at 7/5 having the best players and more solid performances overall however Arsenal can be devastating going forward so don’t discount them or Unai Emery ability to win finals.
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