Chelsea v Arsenal preview, predictions & expected XIs for the 2019 Europa League final
The Europa League comes to a close on Wednesday with an all-English final between Chelsea and Arsenal.
Chelsea will be looking to win the competition for the second time, after beating Benfica 2-1 in 2013, while Arsenal’s Champions League hopes rest on a first Europa League trophy.
Read on for Chelsea v Arsenal live stream options, team news, predicted XIs, stats and TV channel info.
When is Arsenal vs Chelsea?
Competition: Europa League
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Baku
Date: Wednesday, 29 May
Kick-off: 8:00 PM BST
Where can I watch live?
UK residents will be able to watch the 2019 Europa League final of BT Sport 2, channel 414 on Sky and channel 528 for Virgin Media users. The game will also be free to air for non-BT Sport subscribers online at sport.bt.com, via the BT Sport app and BT Sport’s YouTube channel.
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.
But overall Arsenal still have the advantage in the fixture, winning 77 times to Chelsea’s 63.
Chelsea wins: 63 Draws: 57 Arsenal wins: 77
It has been a wonderful season for English teams in European competitions, and just days before Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur face off in the Champions League final, there is the small matter of a London derby in Azerbaijan.
For Chelsea, the Europa League final is a chance to end a decent season with a trophy, Maurizio Sarri’s first major honour as a manager – to add to their third-placed Premier League finish confirming a Champions League spot.
It has been a fairly straightforward route to Baku, with the Blues cruising through the competition until their semi-final penalty shootout win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
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Meanwhile, Arsenal had to work slightly harder for their place in the final, overcoming first-leg deficits against BATE Borisov and Rennes in the early knockout rounds. But they enjoyed big wins against Napoli and Valencia to secure their place in Baku.
The Gunners have so much more riding on the game.
For them, a win on Wednesday will be the difference between another year in the Europa League and a return to the Champions League. The difference between being able to target the big names, or having to make do with stars happy to miss out on the Champions League for at least one season.
Why has Henrikh Mkhitaryan not travelled?
Although the build up for the Europa League final should be about Chelsea and Arsenal fighting it out for a trophy, unfortunately other matters have dominated the news.
The most controversial, come kick off, will be the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Arsenal’s matchday squad – despite the winger having played the joint-most games for the Gunners in the Europa League (11).
Due to political tensions between host country Azerbaijan, and Mkhitaryan’s native Armenia, the 30-year-old has made the decision to miss the final due to fears over his safety.
This is not the first time Mkhitaryan has had to make a decision to miss an Arsenal away game, with the Armenian not travelling to a group stage fixture against Qarabag earlier in the season – another Azerbaijani side.
But given the nature of the game, arguably his biggest at Arsenal since joining in January 2018, Mkhitaryan’s fear for his safety has brought a staunch stance from his club on the location of the final.
“We have written to Uefa expressing our deep concerns about this situation,” Arsenal said in a recent statement.
“We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party.
“Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.
“We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career.”
Will this be Maurizio Sarri’s last game at Chelsea?
Despite leading Chelsea to third in the Premier League and a Europa League final, there is a lot of speculation that Wednesday’s game could be Maurizio Sarri’s last in charge of the Blues – regardless of the result.
Taking over from Antonio Conte last summer, Sarri’s job specification was to lead Chelsea back to the Champions League while playing the exciting brand of football he had deployed at Napoli.
And though the first goal was achieved, the second seems so far away. Chelsea fans have been visibly disgruntled with the way their team have been playing, voicing their displeasure towards Sarri for the style and his decisions.
The biggest bugbear among the Blues supporters has been Sarri’s use – or lack of – both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
As a result, Chelsea are reportedly looking to appoint former midfielder and current Derby County manager Frank Lampard as their next boss. Not only that, Sarri is currently being linked with the Juventus job after Massimiliano Allegri announced his departure.
But Sarri insists he has not been in touch with any other club, telling reporters: “I have two years of my contract here.
“I have no contract with other clubs. I have to speak with my club after the final. I want to know if they are happy with me.”
“I’m very, very happy but we have to discuss the situation. It’s normal. You have to discuss things with the club.”
Who has had a better first season at their new club?
Once the game is over and celebrations have petered out, both teams will be looking back on their season – reviewing how their managers did. Both Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri have been overseeing their first seasons in charge of their respective clubs, and have enjoyed similar seasons with regards to results.
The Europa League final will be Emery’s 58th game in charge of Arsenal at the end of a transitional season post-Arsene Wenger. Of the 57 games to date, the Gunners have won 35, drawn eight and lost 14 – win percentage of 61.4%.
The Spaniard’s arrival saw Arsenal gain seven points on last season in the Premier League, moving one space up in the table, and could yet bring Champions League football back to the Emirates with a win on Wednesday.
But there have still been problems, most notably Arsenal’s away form with 10 of their 14 defeats coming on the road – including two in the Europa League.
Chelsea will end the season having played 63 games, more than any other team in England’s top four divisions. Of the 62 so far, Sarri has won 39, drawing 11 and losing 11 – a win percentage of 62.9%. The Italian oversaw Chelsea’s return to the Champions League through a third-placed finish, with two more points earned on last season’s tally.
Sarri has also led Chelsea to the Carabao Cup final, where they only lost to Manchester City on penalties. But the fans are unhappy with the style of play at Chelsea and Sarri’s perceived stubbornness, which appears to have hurt the team throughout the season. And, like Arsenal, Sarri has not enjoyed playing on the road, with nine of the 11 defeats coming away from home – including neutral venues.
Chelsea look set to be without N’Golo Kante for the final against Arsenal, with the Frenchman reportedly picking up a knee injury in training. The Blues are also without Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Antonio Rudiger.
Meanwhile Arsenal are without the aforementioned Mkhitaryan, who has stayed at home due to fears of his safety in Azerbaijan. However, the Gunners have been boosted by the return to fitness of Danny Welbeck who has traveled with the squad.
1. No surprises from Sarri
Though the Europa League has been a place to rotate for Sarri this season, with this being the final – and his lack of options – the Italian is unlikely to spring any real surprises with his starting XI.
The back five picks itself, with Emerson getting in ahead of Marcos Alonso due to form, while the midfield trio is also a given – due to there being no other options. Of first-team players, only Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley are fit, with the Croatian likely to fill in N’Golo Kante’s role.
Up front, Willian and Hazard should be joined by Olivier Giroud, who has made the Europa League his own this season, while Gonzalo Higuain has faltered since moving on loan from Juventus.
Predicted Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Giroud, Hazard.
2. Cech to miss out on final farewell
One of the big debates of Arsenal’s line up going into the final is whether Petr Cech will start in goal against his former club.
The 37-year-old has started in 10 of Arsenal’s 14 Europa League games to date, keeping six clean sheets. But given the stature of the game, and the opponent, fans have been calling for Emery to forget sentiment and recall first-choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
And that’s what we expect to happen, with Leno returning for his five Europa League appearance. The other big decision could come in who plays behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but Alex Iwobi is likely to get the nod ahead of Mesut Ozil, with the coming off the bench for impact late on.
Predicted Arsenal XI (3-4-1-2): Leno; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Kolasinac; Iwobi; Aubameyang, Lacazette.
3. Ozil and Cech to keep their Europa League places
While our own predicted Arsenal line up sees Emery go with his head over his heart in picking Bernd Leno, the Evening Standard believe Cech will keep his place.
The Europa League final will be Cech’s final game as a professional footballer, with the goalkeeper retiring, and it would be a fitting send off to him to go out against his former club.
There is also space for Mesut Ozil in Arsenal’s XI, with Emery predicted to be unchanged from the Europa League side which beat Valencia 4-2 in the semi-final second leg.
Evening Standard‘s predicted Arsenal XI (3-4-1-2): Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil; Aubameyang, Lacazette.
This is a tough one to call with both sides showing strengths and weaknesses throughout the season, especially in the two previous matches. But Arsenal have more to fight for and a fuller squad to choose from, which could see them with the slight advantage. 1-1, Arsenal to win on penalties.