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Clinical Aubameyang and Europa League specialist Emery to put Sarri out of a job? Arsenal vs Chelsea big match preview

Arsenal vs Chelsea Europa League final TV channel, kick-off time and predicted line ups

When? Wednesday, 8pm

Where? Olympic Stadium, Baku

What channel? BT Sport 2

Arsenal: Leno, Koscielny, Sokratis, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette

Chelsea: Kepa, Luiz, Christensen, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Jorginho, Barkley, Kovacic, Hazard, Pedro, Higuain

Players to watch…

These are two flawed sides, which perhaps explains why they’re contesting the Europa League final this season rather than some of the bigger games they’ve taken part in in the past.

However, despite patchy squads overall in comparison to past teams, there are match-winners there, with Eden Hazard the main man to watch for Chelsea, as ever.

The Belgian may well be playing his final game for Chelsea and will want to go out with a bang. Despite big names missing through injury elsewhere in the Blues squad, Hazard can change a game with a single moment of magic. Arsenal just need to make sure they’re ready.

eden hazard in action for Chelsea

Eden Hazard will be one to watch in the Europa League final

In red and white, the man to watch is surely Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. While the Gabon international is not as rounded a talent as Hazard, he has shown himself to be one of Europe’s most deadly clinical strikers in recent years, and continues to do the goods for Arsenal.

Aubameyang was the hero with a stunning hat-trick against Valencia in the Europa League semi-final second leg, and he’ll be waiting to punish any sloppy defending from David Luiz and co. This is where the injured Antonio Rudiger could prove a very big miss indeed.

Recent form…

Neither side ended the Premier League season very well at all, though for Chelsea it was enough to get them third place.

This slightly flattered Maurizio Sarri’s men, and one wonders if their having already sewn up Champions League football without doing anything particularly great to get it might count against them against Arsenal.

The league table suggests they should be favourites, but they have won only two of their last seven games in all competitions, drawing the other five, though one of those ended up being a victory on penalties against Eintracht Frankfurt to reach this week’s final.

Arsenal haven’t been great either, though they’ve arguably picked up a little more since that terrible run of three defeats in a row that ultimately cost them a top four spot.

Since then they’ve beaten Valencia twice and done so convincingly to reach Wednesday’s final, while they also won an admittedly quite meaningless league match away to Burnley on the final day of the season.

Fixture history…

We’ll admit this surprised us when we checked, so maybe it will surprise you to learn that Chelsea have just one win against Arsenal in their last eight meetings.

The Blues were certainly hugely dominant against the Gunners for some time, but there have been plenty of recent disappointments.

Their last game was a 2-0 win for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League, with goals from Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette doing the damage.

Earlier this season, Chelsea edged a close game 3-2 at Stamford Bridge as both Sarri and Emery settled in to life in England.

And of course, one of Arsenal’s wins in their last eight meetings mentioned above came in another cup final between these two, with Arsenal emerging as surprise 2-1 winners against the Blues in the 2017 FA Cup final, denying Antonio Conte’s side the double that season.

A bit further back, these two also played out the League Cup final, with Chelsea beating a youthful Arsenal side in 2007, while five years earlier Arsenal came out on top in another FA Cup final.

All this history between these two sides but this will be only the second time they’ve met in Europe – with Chelsea coming out on top of a two-legged Champions League quarter-final tie against Arsenal’s Invincibles in the 2003/04 season.

In the dugout…

It says a lot about the modern game that both of these managers, both in their first seasons at their clubs, in a European cup final, could be under big pressure if they end this one on the losing side.

Calciomercato have reported on Sarri agreeing to become the next Juventus manager, with the Italian tactician facing plenty of criticism in his short time in England.

Meanwhile, the Evening Standard have claimed Chelsea could struggle to keep key players from quitting the club if they don’t get rid of Sarri this summer.

Even if he does lift the trophy on Wednesday night, the prospects of the former Napoli boss staying on seem slim as his playing style – highly lauded in Serie A – just hasn’t seemed to take off here.

maurizio sarri

Maurizio Sarri has been unconvincing as Chelsea manager

Arsenal, meanwhile, will surely give Emery another season at least after sticking with Arsene Wenger for as long as they did.

Still, make no mistake, the Spanish tactician may not be entirely safe if AFC put in a bad performance and lose heavily in Baku.

Given how the Gunners have played on a number of occasions this season, that might not be too surprising, with the team overly reliant on the excellence of their strikers to make up for an apparent lack of real game plan or philosophy developing under Emery.

Still, the Spaniard has a fine record in this competition, winning this trophy three years in a row with Sevilla, so he’s clearly got something about him. It’s just hard to know which Arsenal will turn up.

Prediction…

We’re reluctant to commit to one team here in what looks likely to be a very close game.

We can see this being a low-scoring affair, perhaps 1-1, and it’ll go to penalties. That’s all we’re giving you.

More Stories Antonio Rudiger Bernd Leno Eden Hazard Maurizio Sarri Petr Cech Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Unai Emery