The Baku Olympic Stadium is the venue for the first all-London UEFA final as Chelsea take on local rivals Arsenal. The 2013 Europa League winners will be taking on the 2000 finalist in an all-English final; the sides only previous UEFA competition meeting came in the 2003-04 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, the Blues winning 3-2 on aggregate. These two teams meet on Wednesday 29 May, 2008 at 20.00WAT/21:00CET (11pm local time in Baku!).
Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi is the referee for the finals. He officiated the 2017 UEFA Super Cup between Real Madrid and Manchester United. This will be the first UEFA Europa League fixture to use the video assistant referee (VAR) system. A fourth substitution will be permitted for each side if the final goes to extra time.
Former Dutch international and a winner of this competition (UEFA Cup) in 2002 – Pierre van Hooijdonk is UEFA ambassador for the finals. He won this competition with Feyenoord, finished as the top scorer and also scored two goals in the final against Borussia Dortmund.
CHELSEA v ARSENAL – WED. 29 MAY 2019, 20.00HRS
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Chelsea will be playing in their second Europa League final, having won 2–1 against Benfica in 2013. Maurizio Sarri’s team entered this competition in the group stage, winning Group L with five victories and a draw. Malmo FF were thumped in the first knock out round 5-1 on aggregate, Dynamo Kyiv mauled 8-0 on aggregate in Round of 16 and got the better of Slavia Prague in the last eight. The former champions faced Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals and managed to edge the German club on penalties in the second leg after two 1-1 draws to secure a final berth.
The Blues talisman is Eden Hazard; the 28-year-old Belgium national team skipper has been influential for Chelsea throughout the season and he would be the expected to lead his team on the field in Baku. Aside Hazard, club vice-captain César Azpilicueta and David Luiz were part of the victorious team in Chelsea’s first Europa League triumph in 2013 and they should all start this game in Baku as Maurizio Sarri targets his first major trophy as a coach.
Arsenal will also be playing their second Europa League final, having lost on penalties to Galatasaray in 2000. The Gunners entered the competition in the group stage as well and finished top of Group E with 16 points; five wins and a draw. The 2006 Champions League finalist overcame BATE Borisov in the Round of 32, Rennes provided a stern test in the last 16 but the Gunners overcame a first leg 3-1 deficit to book a quarter final spot. Emery’s team dispatched one of the favorites – Napoli winning both legs in the last eight and Unai troops dumped his former team, Valencia out in the semis enroute Baku.
On the pitch, the firepower of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette has blown away opponents in this competition. The duo has 13 goals and four assists between them and will be expected to lead the line as the Gunners aim for second European silverware to the solitary 1994 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Unai Emery has won this competition thrice, all from his time at Sevilla, and his know-how will be invaluable for a side in search of European glory.
VERDICT – Who will win the 2019 Europa League final?
- Hosting a European Cup final in Baku isn’t looking as ideal; Armenia’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan was forced to pull out of representing Arsenal in the final. It is equally proving difficult for fans of the two teams to make the trip. Both London clubs were given 6,000 tickets each for the final in Baku but they have gone largely unsold due to issues getting to the stadium. Arsenal have returned 2300 of their 6000 tickets with UEFA coming under heavy criticism for holding the final in Azerbaijan.
- The rumor surrounding the futures of Maurizio Sarri and Eden Hazard continues to persist; this might be the final game for both as manager and player of Chelsea. This is an unwanted distraction for the Blues.
- A spot in the Champions League awaits the winner but Chelsea have secured a place in the competition thanks to their third place finish in the Premier League.
- It is Arsenal that needs this victory for ensure qualification. We expect a hard-fought contest in this London derby in Baku. Both teams won their home league match against the visitors. Arsenal have won the last two cup encounters while Chelsea won the only European tie.
- There would be goals at both ends, over 2.5 goals is the prediction with Arsenal likely to edge it thanks to Unai Emery’s experience and success in this competition.
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