Advantage Gunners as injury-hit Blues travel to Baku?

By Soccer Blog | May 29, 2019

Unai Emery will be looking for a fourth Europa League title this decade when his Arsenal side square off against local rivals Chelsea in Baku tonight. The Spaniard is regarded as something of a master in the Europa League, having won the tournament thrice in a row during his managerial stint with Sevilla, and victory in the Azerbaijani capital will not only give the Gunners their first European silverware since 1994, but also seal their spot in the group stages of next season’s Champions League.

Arsenal finished fifth in the Premiership in 2018/19, which ordinarily means they will not feature in the CL next year. However the victors of the Europa League get a direct entry into the UCL, and the North London oufit will be looking to take the same path that Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United did two years ago.

Cup

Chelsea have already qualified for the Champions League, but victory in Baku would give Maurizio Sarri some silverware to show for his efforts at the Bridge after having lost in the League Cup final on penalties to Man City earlier this year. There are some rumours that Sarri could be headed to Juve this summer to replace the outgoing Massimiliano Allegri. This could also be Eden Hazard’s final game for Chelsea if he moves, as expected, to Real Madrid this summer, and the Blues will be keen to send their Belgian stalwart out on a winning note.

A look at th.betway88.com indicates that the Blues are marginal favourites (6/5) for this fixture. They have a fantastic record in major European finals- having won four of the five they’ve contested (two Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971 and 1998, a Champions League crown in 2012 and a Europa League win in 2013). The solitary defeat- in the 2008 CL, would’ve also been a victory but for John Terry’s unfortunate slip in the shootout. Arsenal, on the other hand, have lost their last three European finals (1995 Cup Winners Cup, 2000 UEFA Cup and 2006 Champions League)

Chelsea will be without Reuben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antonio Rudiger and are almost certain to be without N’Golo Kante as well. That puts a lot of pressure on Hazard to step up. The Belgian has a fantastic record against fellow top six opposition, and has managed to either score or assist against Arsenal in EVERY season since 2013. Betway have him at 13/10 as an anytime goal scorer.

Hazard Barca

Route to final- Chelsea

PAOK 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 1-0 MOL Vidi
Chelsea 3-1 BATE
BATE 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 4-0 PAOK
Mol 2-2 Chelsea

Knockouts

Malmo 1-2 Chelsea | Chelsea 3-0 Malmo
Chelsea 3-0 Dynamo | Dynamo 0-5 Chelsea
Slavia 0-1 Chelsea | Chelsea 4-3 Slavia
Eintracht 1-1 Chelsea | Chelsea 1-1 Eintracht (Chelsea won on penalties)

Baku

Route to final- Arsenal

Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla
Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal
Sporting 0-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-0 Sporting
Vorksla 0-3 Arsenal
Arsenal 1-0 Qarabag

Knockouts

BATE 1-0 Arsenal | Arsenal 3-0 BATE
Rennes 3-1 Arsenal | Arsenal 3-0 Rennes
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli | Napoli 0-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 3-1 Valencia | Valencia 2-4 Arsenal

The Gunners will be without Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who will not travel to Baku owing to political reasons. Emery must decide whether to stick with Petr Cech in goal, or go for the more reliable Bernd Leno under the sticks.

The referee for this game is Gianluca Rocchi- Chelsea have a 100% record under him in European competition, having won all three games that he’s refereed so far. Arsenal however have a poorer record- only one win in four under the Italian.

Verdict: Chelsea would ordinarily be favourites, but their injuries, plus Emery’s pedigree in this competition, leads us to favour the Gunners here.

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