Chelsea and Arsenal meet in the first European competition final of the season as the two English clubs travel to Baku with one set to return with a European trophy albeit the Europa League on.
For Arsenal, the final also represents their last chance at qualifying for the Uefa Champions League next season with Chelsea already having qualified after they finished fourth in the Premier League.
For Chelsea, it is a chance to end a disappointing season before they endure an interesting summer ahead where they will not be able to sign any players following their transfer ban whilst there is a lot of speculation about the futures pf Maurizio Sarri and Eden Hazard.
The demise of Sarri
Sarri began the season with some decent performances, going undefeated in August, which quickly had the Chelsea fans behind him.
However, as the season went on and the results began to take a turn, Chelsea fans grew frustrated at the stubbornness of the Italian manager over his refusal to drop midfielder Jorginho as well as the continuation of playing World Cup winner N’Golo Kante out of position.
Sarri eventually guided the Bles to Champions League qualification but could face the sack if he is unable to produce the goods in Baku. In fact, there is even talk that he might be on the chopping block no matter the result.
If anything summed up the tension in the Chelsea, then it is the spat that seemingly unfolded between David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain in the final training session ahead of the final which saw Sarri storming off the field.
— La Red (@Lared1061) May 29, 2019
Hazard to bow out in style
Another pivotal figure in the clash will be Chelsea star Eden Hazard who has been linked with a £115 million move to Real Madrid.
Hazard has been a stalwart for Chelsea in recent years and has helped them to two Premier League titles and one Europa League.
It is rumoured that the forward is Madrid’s top priority as Zinedine Zidane looks to rebuild his side with Hazard set to be a key figure in the French manager’s plans.
Hazard has been vocal about his desire to win the Champion’s League and a big money move to the Bernebeau will be hard to turn down even with the season they had.
Both teams will be without some key figures with midfielders Kante and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both ruled out of the clash.
Kante picked up a knee injury and whilst it was looking promising, new reports are emerging that he will definitely not feature in the starting XI and is unlikely to take the field at all.
Mkhitaryan, on the other hand, did not travel with the side after the club and player decided that it was in the best interests of the Armenian player safety not to travel to Baku amid political tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenian nationals are not allowed within the borders of Azerbaijan and while Uefa would have surely ensured an exception, Arsenal has decided not to take the risk.
[…] It‘s the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often for us players and I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it.I will be cheering my teammates on! Let’s bring it home @Arsenal ???????????????????????????? #uel #final #arsenal #chelsea #AFC #COYG pic.twitter.com/gnDA6oyolw
— Henrikh Mkhitaryan (@HenrikhMkh) May 21, 2019
The decision to host the final in Baku has been slammed by both clubs given the expenses required for their fans to travel.
Uefa allocated just 12 000 of the 70 000 to the clubs but it has since been reported that half of these tickets have actually been returned to Uefa with both clubs unable to sell them given the travel practicalities.
UEFA have been quick to quell any rumours that the stadium will be empty claiming that the remaining tickets returned will be sold to local supporters and that the stadium will be full on the night.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery has been one of those that have criticized the venue.
“I don’t know really how they decided to play there. After it’s going to be only 6,000 supporters from us and Chelsea but the stadium has a capacity for 68,000. I think it’ll be full but not with our supporters.”
Who are the bookies favouring
Bet365 are backing a Chelsea win at 2.25 while Arsenal will be paying 3.50 for a win. A full-time draw has been backed at 3.40 and is almost on par with an Arsenal victory in the 90 minutes of regulation time.
In terms of score predictions, a 1-0 Chelsea victory would pay out at 9.00 whilst an Arsenal 2-0 victory has been tipped as high as 17.00.
Featured image: Fox Sports