Chelsea vs. Arsenal, Wednesday 29th May, 20:00
The Europa League final may be hard for fans to get to, but for Chelsea it offers a potential swansong for Eden Hazard’s time at the club, as well as affording beleaguered boss Maurizio Sarri the chance to win silverware in his first season at the helm.
The same is also true of Unai Emery in the opposite dugout, who of course has past form in this tournament having won it three years running with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016, though he’ll need to harness that experience as this game matters more for the Gunners with Champions League qualification on the line.
Arsenal can take comfort from a W4-D4-L2 record against the Blues since 2016/17, as well as the fact that Sarri is yet to win a trophy during his managerial career.
They’ll also point to a pair of in-form strikers to bolster their cause, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in particular currently enjoying a purple patch with seven goals across four matches in May so far.
In fact, the Gabon international and his French strike partner Alexandre Lacazette netted all seven goals between them against Valencia in the semi-finals, with the four plundered at the Mestalla the only time in the Spanish outfit’s last 27 home games where they’ve shipped more than a single strike.
Those two frontman will certainly be licking their lips with Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger sidelined through injury. The German has become a key player at the heat of their defensive efforts, with the Blues conceding nine times in the seven games where he’s played 40 minutes or less since mid-April.
They only won two of these fixtures and even let in three goals hosting Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals, while Sarri will also be sweating over the fitness of N’Golo Kante after the Frenchman pulled up in training having only just returned from a hamstring complaint.
We’d certainly be surprised if the Gunners couldn’t register on the board, though it’s worth noting that Arsenal’s rearguard is hardly looking watertight either.
Eight teams held a better defensive record in the league this term and they too having missing players to contend with.
Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin were regular fixtures during the 22-game unbeaten run the Gunners put together between August and December, and both long-term absentees have been sorely missed, while Emery is also shorn of Kostas Mavropanos’ services after he picked up a knock in their final league encounter.
That could potentially mean a start for the much-derided Shkodran Mustafi, and the prospects of goals will only increase if the error-prone German takes to the field.
An all-English final gives further reason to think this should be an entertaining game for the neutral. Three of four clashes between English sides in Europe since the start of last season have seen at least three goals, with the sensational seven-goal thriller between City and Spurs last month seeing these matches average 3.5 goals per game.
This was also the highest-scoring Premier League season in history, with each of the five highest-scoring campaigns all coming since 2010/11, while five of the last seven Europa League finals have featured at least three successful efforts.
*all odds are subject to change