UEFA Europa League final preview: Chelsea v Arsenal

Possible line-ups, expert opinion and what the coaches have to say.

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  • London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal meet in Baku
  • Kanté a major doubt after suffering knee injury
  • Arsenal have never won UEFA Europa League
  • Sides won one each in league 18/19 meetings
  • All you need to know about the final in Baku

Possible line-ups

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Alonso; Kanté/Kovačić, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard
Out: Loftus-Cheek (Achilles), Hudson-Odoi (Achilles), Rüdiger (knee)
Doubtful: Kanté (knee), Cahill (Achilles)

Key man: Hazard

Mesut Özil and Unai Emery in Baku
Mesut Özil and Unai Emery in Baku©Getty Images

Arsenal: Čech; Kolasinač, Koscielny, Papastathopoulos, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Torreira; Aubameyang, Özil; Lacazette
Out: Ramsey (hamstring), Denis Suárez (groin), Bellerín (knee), Holding (knee), Mkhitaryan (did not travel)
Doubtful: Welbeck (ankle)

Key man: Aubameyang

Key battles

Eden Hazard v Ainsley Maitland-Niles
With a UEFA Champions League place secure, 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 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.

Europa League final flashback
Europa League final flashback

Andreas Christensen, David Luiz v Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette
Aubameyang and Lacazette have contributed 13 goals and five assists between them during the run to the final. The Gabon forward’s movement is the primary challenge for opposition defences, all the more so when paired with Lacazette’s instinctive finishing. Yet Chelsea have conceded just nine in 14 UEFA Europa League outings this season, with Christensen a starter throughout. Then there is David Luiz, who snuffed out Aubameyang in both domestic meetings this season.

Jorginho v Lucas Torreira
Different deep-lying midfielders in style, but similarly pivotal in making their sides tick. It is little coincidence that Chelsea’s renaissance towards the end of the season coincided with Jorginho’s upturn in form, while when Torreira failed to hold down a starting berth domestically, Arsenal struggled for consistency. Whichever midfielder imposes their coach’s vision best on the encounter will go a long way to settling the showpiece in his side’s favour.

UEFA.com reporters' views

Dan Thacker, Chelsea: For a club that became so accustomed to continental success around the turn of the decade, it seems remarkable that this is Chelsea's first European final since 2013, when they lifted this trophy in Amsterdam. All expected to start in Baku, Eden Hazard, David Luiz and César Azpilicueta were part of that squad and their nous could prove crucial. Maurizio Sarri, who has never scooped a major trophy as a coach, will certainly hope so.

Chelsea and Arsenal set for showdown
Chelsea and Arsenal set for showdown

Even so, one-nation finals tend to be tense affairs – the sides' familiarity often breeding wariness – with Chelsea's penalty shoot-out defeat against Manchester United in the 2008 UEFA Champions League decider one such example. With one victory apiece in domestic head-to-heads this season, it would not be a surprise to see this one extend beyond 90 minutes.

John Atkin, Arsenal: The Gunners have a cavernous trophy cabinet teeming with silverware. Thirteen English championships, 13 FA Cups, two League Cups, 15 Community Shields – but so far there is a solitary UEFA crown among them: the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

Aubameyang's Europa League goals this season
Aubameyang's Europa League goals this season

Unai Emery alone has three times as many, all from his time at Sevilla, and his know-how will be invaluable for a side that arrived in Baku 48 hours before Chelsea – better prepared or over-eager? As will the potency of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, scorers of Arsenal's last eight UEFA Europa League goals.

Where to watch

Fans can find their local UEFA Europa League broadcast partner(s) here.

Thoughts from the camps

Kepa v Čech: Their best saves this season
Kepa v Čech: Their best saves this season

Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea coach
Usually against Arsenal, it's an open match. They have two very dangerous strikers: Lacazette and Aubameyang. They are very dangerous as a team in the offensive phase. They are aggressive and able to press well in the opposition half, so it's not easy to play against them.

We didn't want to play this final for the Champions League. We wanted the Champions League through the Premier League, and then we wanted to win a trophy. The final is very important for us, and our feeling is we deserve to win a trophy.

Five great Europa League final goals
Five great Europa League final goals

Unai Emery, Arsenal manager
The first idea thing I had to transmit to the players this season is that we go for every competition. When we started playing in the first Europa League matches, some players preferred to play Premier League. OK, but I am going to decide when you are going to rest or not.

I don't want you to think you might not play in the early rounds and yet, when we arrive at the semi-final or the final, you say to me: "I am here to play." All season, the approach to this competition has been a big focus, a big ambition to do something important. To feel this competition like we want it.

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