Arsenal play Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku tonight, with both sides looking to end their season on a high for completely different reasons. This game is the first of the double-header of all English finals, where three teams from London will be represented.
Unai Emery will be looking to add another Europa League crown to the three in a row he secured whilst he was the manager of Sevilla. Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri will be finally looking to break his duck of a barron
trophy spell by adding his first trophy to his managerial CV, as rumours abound that he will be replaced before the start of next season.
Image Credit: Aleksander Osipov via Wikimedia Commons
There is controversy surrounding this year's final, primarily in relation to its location. UEFA has allocated only 6,000 tickets to each respective team, in a stadium with a capacity of 69,870. Many fans have been priced-out of the trip, due to the extreme difficulties presented by travelling to Azerbaijan. Arsenal player Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling
with the squad, due to current tensions between his native Armenia and the host country.
In response, Arsenal said
: “We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad, but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling
The former Manchester United player has been involved in 11 games in this season's competition, having contributed three assists, and has a pass completion rate of 82% in the competition.
Arsenal finished the season outside the top four for the third consecutive season, however in their first season under Emery they have shown signs of improvement to the side that was left with him by Arsene Wenger. Arsenal has become a more resilient side against the top six, but their away record is still abysmal at best. At home this season in the league, The Gunners have only lost twice and have picked up wins over the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.
Arsenal's Europa League campaign began in comprehensive style, as they qualified from Group E with a total of 16 points from 18 available, only droppeing points at home against Sporting Lisbon, with Qarabağ FK and FC Vorskla Poltava providing no competition whatsoever. In the round of 32, Arsenal saw off the challenge of Bate Borisov with a 3-1 win on aggregate after losing the away tie by a goal to nil. Onto the round of 16, Arsenal was in the most trouble it had encountered after losing the first leg against Stade Rennais 3-1 - but they recovered in the second leg to win 4-3 on aggregate. Up next was Napoli, who were considered Arsenal's toughest opponents, but they managed to fend off the challenge of the Italian side with a comfortable 3-0 win. Valencia was then dealt with in the semi-final with a 7-3 aggregate win. Now, Arsenal have their first European final since 2006 and are looking to win their first European trophy since 1994.
Arsenal needs to win this game in order to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season - failure to do so will result in the club joining Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers in next season's Europa League.
For Maurizio Sarri, it could well be his last game in charge of Chelsea as rumours and reports are suggesting that the former Napoli manager will be replaced before the start of the new season,
with the likes of the recently available Massimiliano Allegri and Derby manager and club legend Frank Lampard in line to replace him. Sarri will be taking his Chelsea side into their second final this season, having guided them to the Carabao Cup final where they finished runners-up to Manchester City. This game could also be the last game for Belgian forward Eden Hazard in a Chelsea shirt, as it is widely expected that the team's starman will join Real Madrid in the summer having talked heavily for the last two years about how much he would love to join the club.
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Chelsea finished fifth last season, which meant they were starting life back in the Europa League having last won the competition in the 2012/13 season under Rafa Benitez. The Blues started the competition with the same record Arsenal had, with 16 points from the 18 available in the group stages. Chelsea finished seven points clear of second place Bate Borisov with MOL Fehérvár FC and PAOK. Chelsea then faced Malmo, in which they dispatched the Swedish side 5-1 on aggregate in the round of 16. Dynamo Kyiv was up next and the London side disposed of them with ease with an 8-0 aggregate win. Chelsea was tested in the quarterfinals against Slavia Prague, but their biggest test came against Frankfurt, which had to be decided on penalties.
Chelsea has already qualified for the Champions League because they finished third in the Premier League, but you would feel that a trophy would provide some validation for Maurizio Sarri.
won three from their last five, whereas Chelsea have
only won two from their five in all competitions.
This season both sides have managed to gain a win over one another, with Chelsea beating Arsenal at Stamford Bridge with Arsenal winning the reverse fixture.
Olivier Giroud is the top scorer in the Europa League with ten goals. The Frenchman has averaged 3.3 shots a game in this year's competition, whilst Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is Arsenal's top scorer in the Europa League and has averaged 3.9 shots per game.
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