With the Premier League having reached its conclusion, fans are looking forward to the two major UEFA finals which will feature four English teams as the 2018/19 season draws its final breath. First of those events will be the London derby in Baku where two fierce rivals will clash with varying prizes at stake.
Chelsea will be looking to lift their first silverware of the season- meanwhile, for their rivals, a more significant outcome in the form of Champions League football is at stake. Earlier, a late-season collapse saw the Gunners crash out of the top four and only a win in the final on Wednesday will ensure UCL football for them next season.
The picture is also slightly different in the context of the Europa League for both managers. Arsenal’s Unai Emery could lift his fourth Europa League title while Sarri could break the duck with his first ever major trophy in management.
Let’s take a look at the 3 key battles which might be vital in deciding which colour will prevail through the streets of Baku(Red or Blue) at the end of 90 minutes.
David Luiz vs Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabonese striker has already won the Premier League Golden Boot in his first complete season with Arsenal. Aubameyang scored 31 goals in all competitions netting 8 of them in Europe with a stupendous semi-final hat-trick against Valencia away from home.
The 29-year-old will be up against one tough opposition on Wednesday and will look forward to striking the final nail in Blues’ coffin for a silverware this season.
David Luiz has gone up against Arsenal on two occasions this season conceding four goals where he kept Aubameyang at bay. The Brazilian didn’t feature in the group stages in Europe but has been a key figure for Chelsea in the knockout phases of the competition.
The 32-year-old put in a stellar performance in the semi-finals against Eintracht Frankfurt and will have to put on another solid defensive display to help Chelsea end a topsy turvy campaign on a high.
Eden Hazard vs Ainsley Maitland Niles
This could very well be Hazard’s last appearance in a Chelsea shirt as his exit rumours to Santiago Bernabeu keeps solidifying day by day. The Chelsea talisman led the Blues to a top 4 finish in the Premier League having being rested through the majority of the European competition starting only 3 games.
The Belgian, who is yet to score in the Europa League this season, provided the all-important assist in the second leg at Stamford Bridge and will be the biggest threat for Arsenal in the final third.
Maitland Niles, a winger turned wing-back will have the biggest role of them all in nullifying the in-form Belgian and the Gunners can only pray for the 28-year-old to have an off day. If Hazard gets going early in the game, it would take a momentous effort from the Arsenal defence to keep him in check.
Ross Barkley vs Granit Xhaka
Ross Barkley vs Xhaka is likely to be the most intriguing battle in the midfield which could ultimately decide who lifts the European trophy in Baku. The Englishman had a rough start to the season but is now an indisputable starter in Sarri’s XI after his performances in the latter part of the season managed to impress the team management while injuries to both N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek means that Sarri would have picked him either way.
Loftus-Cheek was excellent in the semi-final and his offensive productivity is something which has to be matched by Barkley. Xhaka, meanwhile, will act as a shield for a vulnerable Gunners defence. The Swiss international has a similar average(1.7) both in fouls and tackles and has garnered 17 yellow cards throughout the season which probably gives us an idea on how he will be approaching the game.