Part one of England’s domination of European finals takes place tonight as Chelsea and Arsenal meet in the Europa League showdown in Baku.
After weeks of discussion about the logistical issues fans have faced in making the trip to Azerbaijan, of which only a few have now gone through with, it’s time to let the football do the talking.
Chelsea have already secured Champions League football after finishing third in the league, and they’re 8/11 to lift the trophy. Arsenal must win if they’re to grab a spot at the top table next term, but they’re 11/10 outsiders.
This seems likely to be Eden Hazard’s last game for the club, while both Olivier Giroud and Petr Cech are facing their former clubs. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s enforced absence and Danny Welbeck’s potential return only adds to the narrative.
Then there’s yesterday’s videos which showed a bust-up between David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain, which prompted boss Maurizio Sarri to storm off the pitch.
The Italian has never won a trophy in football and knows this could be his final game in charge of the Blues, while Unai Emery has won this competition three times with Sevilla.
And after all of that, this is Chelsea v Arsenal, a clash which rarely disappoints. So we’re settling in for a cracker tonight…
Neither side ended the domestic campaign in much form, but both have cruised through this season’s Europa League with relative ease.
Chelsea, who won this tournament in 2013, are 5/4 favourites to win the match in 90 minutes.
Mkhitaryan’s enforced absence and Aaron Ramsey’s injury may force Emery’s hand tonight, with Mesut Ozil a better fit on his own behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette than Alex Iwobi.
Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira will look to run the midfield, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac in the wide roles.
It remains to be seen if Emery opts for Cech in his final game before retirement, or the more ball-happy Bernd Leno.
For Chelsea, Sarri will be without Antonio Rudiger, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. But the big question mark is the potential absence of N’Golo Kante, with Ross Barkley poised to deputise in Sarri’s 4-3-3.
Giroud is set to lead the line up front, and faces a long battle with old ally Laurent Koscielny.
Hazard will go up against Maitland-Niles on Chelsea’s left, with Willian battling Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal on the opposite flank.
Giroud has already fired in 10 goals in this season’s Europa League, and the French World Cup winner is 11/2 to net the opener against his old club tonight.
But it’s Hazard and Aubameyang who share favouritism where the goals are concerned. The duo netted 50 goals between them this term, and they’re 4/1 apiece to break the deadlock in Baku.
Where: Olympic Stadium, Baku
When: 8:00pm, Wednesday 29th May
How to watch: BT Sport 2 / BT Sport Youtube
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication