Wednesday night is poised to be a prestigious night in English football as two London clubs take the stage in one of Europe’s elite competitions in the final of the UEFA Europa League. Chelsea will meet up with Arsenal for the third time this season with both teams eager to capture European glory in Baku.
Chelsea and Arsenal have faced each other this season, with both enjoying a home win in the Premier League. Chelsea also got the better of Arsenal in the previous European meeting between the two sides, winning the 2003/04 Champions League quarter-final 3-2 on aggregate.
Looking into the final, Chelsea perhaps play with a modicum less pressure than Arsenal. Having missed the 2013 showpiece through injury, however, Hazard has extra motivation – his first European final – and will relish coming up against converted full-back in Maitland-Niles. Even so, the 21-year-old right-back can be a dangerous opponent: he is not just a diligent defender, as demonstrated by his goal against Rennes and assists versus Napoli and Valencia. Eden Hazard has created a huge amounts of void speculation regarding his future as just a few days Chelsea declared that they will be up selling Eden Hazard only if Real Madrid meet the asking price of £130 million.
The Gunners have so much more riding on the game. For them, a win on Wednesday will be the difference between another year in the Europa League and a return to the Champions League. The difference between being able to target the big names, or having to make do with stars happy to miss out on the Champions League for at least one season. Arsenal’s failure to achieve Champions league qualification through the Premier League just highlights the importance of this game, as this is a must win for the north London side.
The Blues look set to be without star midfielder N’Golo Kante for the final against Arsenal, with the Frenchman reportedly picking up a knee injury in training. They are also without Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Antonio Rudiger. Both Hudson-Odoi and Rudiger picked up injuries before the end of the season, whereas the England midfielder sustained an Achilles injuries during Chelsea post season trip to Boston for a friendly match.
Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Hazard.
UEFA Europa League Final
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Baku
Date: Wednesday, 29 May
Kick-off: 8:00 PM BST