The Europa League comes to a close tonight with an all-English final between Chelsea and Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Chelsea will be looking to win the competition for the second time, after beating Benfica 2-1 in 2013.
For Arsenal, it’s a win-or-bust encounter as its hopes of making the Champions League next season rest on winning a fist ever title in the competition.
It has been a wonderful season for English teams in European competitions. The Europa League final comes just days before Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur face off in the Champions League final.
For Chelsea, the Europa League final is a chance to end a goody-turbo season with a trophy. This would make it manager, Maurizio Sarri’s first major honour as a manager – to add to their third-placed Premier League finish.
The Gunners under veteran Europa League winner, Unai Emery enjoyed big wins against Napoli and Valencia in the quarter and semi-finals.
For them, a win in tonight’s showpiece final will be the difference between another year in the Europa League and a return to the Champions League.
Arsenal can also take heart from a 2-0 defeat of Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in mid-January. The encounter last year at Stamford Bridge had ended 3-2 in favour of the Blues.
FORM – CHELSEA
Chelsea are unbeaten in the Europa League this season. They are looking to become the first team to lift the trophy without losing a game under the current format.
The Blues dropped just two points in the group stage before easing past Malmo, Dynamo Kiev and Slavia Prague with few hiccups.
However, Sarri’s men were pushed all the way to penalties by Eintracht Frankfurt in the semifinal following a couple of 1-1 draws.
It was fitting that talismanic playmaker Eden Hazard netted the deciding spot-kick in London, because the Blues have become ultra-dependent on the Belgium star for moments of magic.
Hazard will be key as he can look unstoppable on his day. He will surely want to turn shine in what looks to be his farewell appearance.
He’s not scored in ten European games but his last one was actually in Baku against Qarabag.
FORM – ARSENAL
Like Chelsea, the Gunners also cruised through the group stage with five wins and a draw.
They had to survive a couple of scares in the knockout rounds working overtime to cancel first-leg deficits against both BATE Borisov and Rennes, before really clicking into gear from the quarter-finals stage.
Emery’s men beat a high-class Napoli side 3-0 on aggregate and then enjoyed impressive 3-1 and 4-2 victories versus Valencia. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have between them scored the team’s last eight goals in the tournament.
Wednesday’s final will be the third time Chelsea and Arsenal have faced each other this season, with both sides 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.
Overall, Arsenal still have the advantage in this fixture, winning 77 times to Chelsea’s 63 and 57 games ending in draws.
This game is a difficult one to call, with Chelsea having a stronger side and the best player on show.
However, Arsenal have a decent recent record against them and can be devastating going forward on their day.
The Blues are favourites with Arsenal’s defensive weaknesses expected to be central in the match.
It’s almost inconceivable that both teams won’t score here given that the strength of their attacking and weaknesses.
We are predicting a Chelsea win & both teams to score which BetBiga.com is offering some big odds on.
You can also find goods odds on Chelsea win, Hazard to score and over 2.5 goals at BetBiga.com which we predict will most likely be the outcome.
PREDICTION: CHELSEA 2-1 ARSENAL