Part one of «the Premier League conquerors Europe» takes place on Wednesday when Chelsea and Arsenal meet in the Europa League final. The other all-Premier League final is set for Saturday, in Madrid, with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur vying for the Champions League title.
At stake for Chelsea is another European trophy to add to the other five won since 1971. For Arsenal, making it a hattrick of European trophies is very much secondary to the automatic qualifying spot to the 2019/20 Champions League group stage that goes with winning the Europa League. The Arsenal squad needs new blood but who might move on is simply conjecture at the moment.
Chelsea has no such pressure having finished 3rd in the Premier League, Arsenal was 5th, two points fewer than Chelsea.
It could be the last game in charge of Chelsea for Maurizio Sarri – whether he will be fired or he joins Juventus, has still to be decided. Chelsea striker Eden Hazard could also be bringing the curtain down on his Chelsea career. Hazard’s contract is up in the summer of 2020 and so far he has shown no inclination to sign a new one. Rather than losing Hazard to a «Bosman» transfer, a $120m move to Real Madrid this summer is a strong possibility.
Given that the game is being played in far off Azerbaijan, both teams are well away from home. However, a home team in a game played at a neutral location is always designated, and in this case, it’s Chelsea.
Where, when, and how can I watch
The game is being played in the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday, May 29. With a stadium capacity of over 68,000, there are tickets still available according to UEFA.com. Arsenal and Chelsea were allocated 6,000 tickets each, but the word is that it has not been an easy sell given the arduous trip and the costs. Nonetheless, local officials are confident of a good crowd.
Definitely missing for Chelsea through injury are Antonio Rudiger, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Midfielder and a World Cup winner with France, N’Golo Kante, is considered very doubtful after picking up a couple of injuries over the last few weeks.
Danny Welbeck is an unexpected addition to the Arsenal traveling squad having not played since breaking his ankle late in 2018 against Sporting Lisbon. Defender Rob Holding has missed most of this season after suffering a knee injury and won’t return until the new season. Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin, and Barcelona loanee, Denis Suarez are all injured and will not be considered.
Armenian Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has not made the trip on account of security concerns relating to the bitter political relations between his country and the host nation, Azerbaijan.
The biggest issue playing on the mind of Arsenal Coach Unai Emery is who to start in goal – Cech or Leno.
Chelsea and Arsenal in Europe
The two London clubs have only played each other once in European competition.
It was in 2004, the season of the Arsenal «Invincibles.» Invincible in the Premier League but not in the Champions League.
After a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of the quarter-final of the Champions League, the aggregate score was 2-2 with extra time looking likely. But, up popped an unlikely scorer in the form of Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge to give Chelsea a 3-2 win. Chelsea went out in the semi-final round to Monaco.
Keep an eye on…..
Without Aubameyang or his striking partner, Alexander Lacazette, playing well it is difficult to see a way Arsenal can beat Chelsea. Lacazette and Aubameyang combined to score all of Arsenal’s 7 goals in the semi-final against Valencia.
By the same token, the striking partnership of Aubamey and Lacazette could easily be undermined by an Arsenal defence that oft times is as useful as a chocolate teapot.
So for Arsenal to win Aubameyang, Lacazette and the defence need to play very well. If one or both doesn’t turn up, the Europa League trophy will be adorned with blue ribbons.
Hold on, the goal is under review
Although VAR (Video Assistant Referee) has not been used in the Europa League to date, it will be up and running for the final. An all-Italian on-site officiating crew of Referee Gianluca Rocchi, Assistant Referees Filippo Meli and Lorenzo Manganelli, and 4th official Daniele Orsato will be in charge. The VAR crew is headed up by Massimiliano Irrati, also from Italy.