Chelsea will compete against Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League final at Baku National Stadium on 29th May.
The London rivals started the tournaments as two of the favorites and lived up to their tags to reach the final stage. Arsenal have a little more at stake than the Blues as they need to win the trophy to play in the UEFA Champions League next season. They finished 5th in the Premier League and missed out automatic qualification by a lone point.
Meanwhile, Chelsea finished third in the PL and already have their UCL spot locked down for next season. Maurizio Sarri’s side comfortably dominated the group stage against PAOK, Vidi and BATE. They dispatched Malmo in the round of 32 with ease, winning 5-1 on aggregate before going up a gear against Dynamo Kyiv in the next round, winning 8-0 over two legs.
The Blues survived a minor scare against Slavia Praha in the quarterfinals before emerging 5-3 winners on aggregate. They faced high-flying Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt for a spot in the final and won the tie on penalties at Stamford Bridge.Embed from Getty Images
Coming to their opponents, Arsenal cruised through the group stage as well, beating Vorskla, Qarabag and Sporting Lisbon. Unai Emery’s side overcame a 1-0 defeat away to BATE in the round of 32 first leg to win the tie 3-1 on aggregate in the return leg at the Emirates.
The Gunners suffered another major scare against Ligue 1 side Rennes in the next round but found out a way once again to progress. In the quarterfinals, they faced another tournament favorites in Napoli, who had dropped down from the UCL. However, the North London side won 3-0 on aggregate to set up a semifinal clash with Valencia.Embed from Getty Images
In the semifinals, Arsenal won both the legs for a combined aggregate of 7-3 and a booked a spot in the final. Thus, both teams put in dominant performances when needed to make it to the showpiece round of the tournament.
Coming to team news, Chelsea will be without defender Antonio Rudiger and young winger Callum Hudson-Odoi for the final. N’Golo Kante is expected to recover from a thigh injury in time for the match while Ruben Lotus-Cheek is a doubt to take part in the game.
Meanwhile, Emery will be without long-term absentees Danny Welbeck, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. Joining the trio is Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey, who is ruled out with a thigh injury.
Teams Form and Chelsea vs Arsenal Prediction
In terms of form, Chelsea are slight favorites going into the final. The Blues are unbeaten in the tournament so far, winning 11 of their 14 games so far. Further, Eden Hazard looks set to join Real Madrid and will be looking to leave on a high.
On the other hand, Arsenal survived a few close shaves before reaching the final. They have also won 11 out of their 14 games in the tournament but lost 2 of the remaining three matches. However, they do possess Europa League master Emery, who lifted the trophy with Sevilla in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Meanwhile, Sarri has never won a trophy in his career, and the final offers him a great chance to change that fact. The London side have lost just once in their last 11 matches across all competitions, whereas the Gunners have lost four times in the same number of games.
In their two meetings in the league this season, Chelsea won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge while Arsenal won 2-0 at the Emirates, evening each other out. However, throughout the season, the Blues have been the better side and start the final as slight favorites.
Arsenal’s strike pair of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are the ones who tip the balance a bit, and they can score at any point in the game.
Thus, the game promises to be a close one with a little bit of Hazard magic settling the contest in the end.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson; Barkley, Jorginho, Kante; Willian, Hazard, Giroud
Predicted Arsenal XI: Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil; Aubameyang, Lacazette