UEFA Europa League Final – the London clash in Baku!

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After yet another great season of drama, goals galore, come backs and plenty of splendid football, it all came down to a single match. The UEFA Europa League final in Baku is going to be between the London giants Chelsea and Arsenal. English clubs dominated in Europe this season and after both clubs booked their trip to Azerbaijan all eyes were to see who will win the trophy. Unai Emery has a lot of history with the tournament in his Seville days, but can Maurizio Sarri make a parting shot at Chelsea by winning the trophy and then leave to return to Italy?

Meet the teams

CHELSEA (ENG)

  • UEFA club ranking: 12
  • UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League finals: 2
  • Previous final appearance: 2013, 2-1 v Benfica

This season

  • Entry: group stage
  • P14 W11 D3 L0 F32 A9
  • Top scorer: Olivier Giroud (10)
  • Current league position: 4th

Possible first-choice XI:

Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Alonso; Kovačić, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard

Route to the final

  • Qualified: 5th in Premier League
  • Group L winners
  • Round of 32: 5-1 agg v Malmö
  • Round of 16: 8-0 agg v Dynamo Kyiv
  • Quarter-finals: 5-3 agg v Slavia Praha
  • Semi-finals: 2-2agg v Frankfurt (won 4-3 on pens)

ARSENAL (ENG)

  • UEFA club ranking: 9
  • UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League finals: 2
  • Previous final appearance: 2000, 0-0 v Galatasaray (lost 1-4 on pens)

This season

  • Entry: group stage
  • P14 W11 D1 L2 F29 A9
  • Top scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (8)
  • Current league position: 5th

Possible first-choice XI:

Čech; Kolasinač, Koscielny, Papastathopoulos, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Torreira; Aubameyang, Özil; Lacazette

Route to the final

  • Qualified: 6th in Premier League
  • Group E winners
  • Round of 32: 3-1 agg v BATE Borisov
  • Round of 16: 4-3 agg v Rennes
  • Quarter-finals: 3-0 agg v Napoli
  • Semi-finals: 7-3 agg v Valencia

One of the highlights of the final will be that legendary keeper Petr Cech will play his final match in his career against his former team Chelsea. But should Emery trust the retiring keeper or Bernd Leno should retain his #1 spot? It remains to be seen, but from a neutral point of view and from a moral point of view – the keeper deserve one final shot. The team is eager to win the cup for the sake of their teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was forbidden to travel to Baku due to diplomatic reasons. This fueled anger by both sets of fans in addition to high prices of match tickets, distance from London and many more. Many fans asked the right reasons behind choosing the final venue.

Chelsea on another hand must ignore all the talk for the summer revolt – manager leaving, transfer embargo, Eden Hazard leaving and many more gloom coming in the papers. Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta insisted that he and his team are focused and hungry for success. The Blues were in similar situation in 2013 where they won the cup against Benfica. Back then Raffa Benitez was just interim manager and never won the Blues fans on his back. After winning the UEFA Europa League, the Spaniard left the club. It is now to be seen whether Sarri will go back to Seria A and join either Juventus or Roma.

Venue

Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and it’s the lowest-lying capital city in the world – 28 metres below sea level. The capital is the biggest city in the Caucasus region. The Baku Olympic Stadium is nearly 70 000 seated and opened in February 2015.

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