Arsenal fancied to edge Europa League thriller against Chelsea
Arsenal face Chelsea in the final of the Europa League on May 29 aiming to crown Unai Emery’s first season as manager with a trophy.
With a place in the 2019/20 Champions League up for grabs, the game in Baku is hugely important to the Gunners’ hopes of forcing their way into Europe’s elite.
Arsenal are outsiders in the Europa League Final odds by BetEasy to lift the trophy, although there is little between the two sides in the betting.
Aaron Ramsey is out of Arsenal’s line-up with a thigh injury. The Juventus-bound midfielder joins Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck, Denis Suarez and Hector Bellerin on the sidelines.
Chelsea star N’Golo Kante is expected to shake off a thigh injury, but Antonio Rudiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi both miss out as they recover from their respective surgeries.
The Gunners were impressive during the group stage of the competition, winning five and drawing one of their six matches to finish top of Group E.
They were beaten in the away leg of their first two games in the knockout stage but bounced back at the Emirates Stadium to defeat BATE Borisov and Rennes.
Napoli were expected to provide tough competition in the quarter-finals, but Arsenal won both legs to book their place in the last four.
Emery’s side were clinical against Valencia in their semi-final tie, recording a 7-3 aggregate victory to progress to the final.
Chelsea also breezed through the opening stage of the competition, dropping just two points on their way to claiming top spot in Group L
They comfortably defeated Malmo and Dynamo Kiev in the first two knockout rounds, before being given a fright by Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals.
However, the Blues resisted the Czech side’s second leg fightback to progress to a meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals.
The German outfit proved to be stubborn opposition, taking the tie to penalties, but Eden Hazard kept his nerve in the shoot-out to send Chelsea through.
The two sides last met in Europe in the quarter-finals of the 2003/04 Champions League, with Chelsea winning 3-2 on aggregate.
Arsenal have a poor record against English teams in Europe, failing to win any of their previous attempts against sides from their own country.
By contrast, Chelsea have lost just four of their 17 meetings with English opposition in UEFA competitions.
The Gunners will certainly take heart from their recent record against Chelsea, having lost just one of their last eight meetings with Chelsea in all competitions.
There is likely to be little to choose between the two sides in the final, but Arsenal are fancied to edge what could be a classic encounter.