Europa League Final preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea
It’s Arsenal last chance at qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, and perhaps Maurizio Sarri’s final opportunity to win a piece of silverware at Chelsea.
And, oh yeah, it’s a London Derby pitting rivals against each other in a controversial setting for a European final.
Chelsea and Arsenal meet Wednesday for the right to lift the UEFA Cup, squaring off in Baku, Azerbaijan at 3 p.m. ET.
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Arsenal will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who elected to skip the match given the poor relations between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia. Chelsea may be missing N’Golo Kante, though the Blues have not ruled out the influential French midfielder.
The weight of the game is heavier for Arsenal, who will have to sell summer recruits on a year free of the Champions League if it fails to win in Baku.
We don’t know whether Unai Emery will tab Petr Cech as his starting goalkeeper before the Arsenal man leaves for the sporting director role at Chelsea.
Cech is still focused on the Gunners, and says not to be worried about Arsenal rising to the occasion.
“I feel that when Arsenal need to win, we win,” he said. “You go to Athens in the last Champions League group game needing to win 2-0 and you win 3-0. No matter where, we win, because that fire was right behind us as we had to really win. The pressure was what was pushing us.”
Both Sarri and Eden Hazard could be appearing at their final match for Chelsea, and the playmaking Real Madrid target feels this is a good chance to say goodbye from a top position.
“When you play for Chelsea at the start of the season, people think about which trophy we can have at the end of May, so this one is the important one. We lost the League Cup final, so at the end of the season this is the trophy we can go for. “I just want to win the trophy, that is it. It does not matter if I score or I do not score. If it is my last game, I hope to bring the trophy. ... Would it be the perfect farewell? Yes.”
It’s the second Europa League Final for both teams, with Arsenal losing to Galatasaray in penalty kicks (2000) and Chelsea beating Benfica in 2013.