Europa League Final Ultimate Guide: Chelsea vs Arsenal in all-English battle for glory
For the first time since the UEFA Cup/Europa League’s inaugural season in 1971, two English clubs battle it out to be crowned champions.
Chelsea and Arsenal have never travelled so far for a London derby, nor have they ever contested one with quite so much on the line. Coveted European silverware awaits the winner of the clash on Thursday morning AEST in Baku, Azaerbaijan.
If you draw a straight line between Stamford Bridge and The Emirates Stadium, the result is a short 10km connection. But this final instead takes place over 4612km away – a UEFA decision that has been met with serious controversy.
The Gunners are without midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan who stayed home purely owing to the fact he’s Armenian. That development was met with fury from almost all corners of the game, and the revelation that the two clubs returned nearly 6000 tickets to the match didn’t help.
Back on the park, there’s plenty riding on this historic final. Arsenal’s transfer strategy hinges almost exclusively on its outcome, with Champions League qualification opening the door to the top calibre of talent – a necessity considering the need for a squad rebuild. Meanwhile Chelsea have their spot at the top table wrapped up, but with uncertainty over the future of manager Marizio Sarri, the looming exit of superstar Eden Hazard and a prospective transfer ban, things are far from swell at Stamford Bridge.
The Gunners have never won a Europa League crown, while the Blues boast one – but it’s a different story in the dugout.
No manager has won this competition more times than Arsenal boss Unai Emery, who did so three times in a row with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. His opposite number Sarri has never won a major trophy.
This match will also bring a fitting farewell for legendary goalkeeper Petr Cech, he’ll likely line up for his current team Arsenal against his former side Chelsea. It could also be a final glimpse of Hazard in Blue with the Belgian star likely to be headed for Real Madrid sooner rather than later.
The controversial VAR technology will make its debut in Baku as well, despite having never been used throughout the rest of the competition...
Chelsea Expected Lineup: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Alonso; Kovačić, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard
Injury concerns: Kanté (knee), Cahill (Achilles)
Out: Loftus-Cheek (Achilles), Hudson-Odoi (Achilles), Rüdiger (knee), Ampadu (back)
Arsenal Expected Lineup: Čech; Kolasinač, Koscielny, Papastathopoulos, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Torreira; Aubameyang, Özil; Lacazette
Injury concerns: Welbeck (ankle)
Out: Ramsey (hamstring), Denis Suárez (groin), Bellerín (knee), Holding (knee), Mkhitaryan (did not travel)
Head to Head
Played 197 – Chelsea 63 wins, 57 draws, Arsenal 77 wins
Past Meetings This Season
18/8/2018: Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal in Premier League
19/1/2019: Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea in Premier League
Road to the Final
Chelsea (from knockouts): 5-1 vs Malmo, 8-0 vs Dynamo Kiev, 5-3 Slavia Prague, 2-2 vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Arsenal (from knockouts): 3-1 vs BATE Borisov, 4-3 vs Rennes, 3-0 vs Napoli, 7-3 vs Valencia
WHAT THEY SAID
“Usually against Arsenal, it’s an open match. They have two very dangerous strikers: Lacazette and Aubameyang. They are very dangerous as a team in the offensive phase. They are aggressive and able to press well in the opposition half, so it’s not easy to play against them.
“The first idea thing I had to transmit to the players this season is that we go for every competition. When we started playing in the first Europa League matches, some players preferred to play Premier League. OK, but I am going to decide when you are going to rest or not.
“I don’t want you to think you might not play in the early rounds and yet, when we arrive at the semi-final or the final, you say to me: “I am here to play.” All season, the approach to this competition has been a big focus, a big ambition to do something important. To feel this competition like we want it.”