A lot is at stake for the two English sides when they come face to face in Baku on May 29th. After a number of lacklustre performances towards the end of the season, Arsenal found themselves fifth in the Premier League, facing yet another year without competing in Europe’s top-flight soccer competition - the UEFA Champions League.
Only a win against their London rivals will get the Gunners into the UCL and enable Emery to get the backing to buy the summer transfers he so desperately needs, but - having already lost out on penalties against Manchester City in the English League Cup Final earlier this year - Maurizzio Sarri’s reputation, and perhaps even job, is on the line, and he will not want to end his debut season at Chelsea with yet another cup final loss.
Chelsea and Arsenal’s Europa League history
This will be the second Europa League final in both team’s history, with Arsenal definitely holding the more painful memories out of the two. A goalless 120 minutes brought the Gunners’ 2000 final against Galatasaray to penalties; and it wasn’t to be as they lost 4-1 to the Turkish champions.
In fact, losing European Cup finals tends to be a common outcome for Arsenal, with Cup Winners’ Cup losses in 1980 and 1995, and a Champions League Final defeat in 2006. Their last victory in Europe was in 1994, over twenty-five years ago now.
Chelsea, on the other hand, were more recently crowned European champions in 2013 after a 93rd minute goal from Branislav Ivanovic helped the Blues overcome Benfica FC. With three defenders from that winning squad set to play in Baku next week, could Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill and David Luiz be Chelsea’s lucky charms?
What are Chelsea’s chances of winning?
Jose Mourinho once said “I think a team with eleven Azpilicueta's probably could win the Champions League”, and with both him and the experienced David Luiz in defence - Chelsea should feel confident at the back.
Midfield is covered by N’Golo Kante, one of the best central midfielders in the world, whilst striker Eden Hazard takes centre stage in what could be his last game for the English club. The rumour mill has gone into overdrive surrounding his future, with many believing a transfer to Real Madrid is imminent.
Even if this is the case, and he is to leave the Blues behind, this may work in their favour in the final - with the Belgian likely to want to end his time with Chelsea on an all time high.
And let’s not forget about striker Olivier Giroud, who this week signed a new contract that will keep him at the West London club until the end of the 2019/20 season. With Hazard potentially on his way out, the Frenchman will certainly be looking to take on a more important role next year.
His successful Europa League campaign certainly attests to his ability, joining Luka Jovic as the competition’s leading top scorer with ten goals each. But with another ninety minutes to play, in a match against his former club, we can expect Giroud to make his mark on the final and get at least another goal.
Can Arsenal finally win in Europe?
Statistics taken from previous meetings between the two London sides lie in favour of the Gunners. Out of 194 matches, the North London club have come away with a win 75 times, 13 more than Chelsea.
In fact, during their last ten meetings, the Blues have been knocked out of the FA Cup, FA Community Shield and League Cup by their London rivals, winning only two matches compared to Arsenal’s five.
And if we take into account Unai Emery’s stats, things start to look even worse for Chelsea. The Spanish specialist has not lost a single Europa League final, winning with Seville three times in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
He’ll be hoping to come away with another win next weekend by harnessing the attacking power of goal scoring duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette. The forwards have 35 goals between them in the Premier League this season, as well as another 13 in the Europa League, and will be looking to make up for Arsenal’s disappointing domestic campaign with a European win next weekend.
Who will win the 2019 Europa League final?
All eyes will be on Azerbaijan next week as Baku hosts its very first London derby. And if the previous Premier League clashes between the two sides this season are anything to go by, the game is set to be tense and uncompromising.
English clubs are famous for their persistent nature and desire to fight, and you only have to look at the UCL semi-final comebacks from both Liverpool and Tottenham to know how special European nights are to the Premier League teams.
Whilst the Gunners have the stats on their side, we think the Blue might just have the edge if they’re able to isolate Aubameyang and Lacazette on the pitch and push forward with Hazard and Giroud.
Goals are certainly expected in this exciting match-up, which may turn out to be Emery's first defeat in a Europa League final, and Sarri's very first European Cup success.
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