If you were to hop on the tube now it would take about 45 minutes to travel the 8 miles between Stamford Bridge and The Emirates Stadium. It would take a lot longer to travel the 2,796 miles from Chelsea’s home ground to Baku, Azerbaijan the venue of the Europa League final.
That’s the potential journey facing Arsenal and Chelsea fans ahead of a possible London derby in this season’s Europa League final. The Gunners look well set for their second-leg tie, bringing a 3-1 lead to Valencia.
Whilst Chelsea aren’t ahead in their tie, they are also the favourites in the online betting having battled to a tough 1-1 draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt in their semi-final first-leg. So what are the chances of an all-English affair in the final? Who will lift the Europa League at the end of the month? Read on to find out.
Arsenal’s final passage all but guaranteed
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck for Arsenal in the dying moments of their home tie against Valencia to seal a 3-1 win. After a nervy opening 20 minutes Unai Emery’s side steadied themselves to claw a way back into the tie after falling a goal behind.
Whilst a trip to The Mestalla is not easy, Arsenal will surely have enough to see out the tie in Spain. Their opponents are one of the most profligate sides in La Liga this season having scored just 40 goals in 35 games.
Even with Arsenal’s dreadful away record it would be unthinkable for them to blow their chance of the final at this stage. A solitary goal in The Mestalla will surely be all that Arsenal need to win the tie and in Aubameyang and Lacazette they carry a serious scoring threat.
Chelsea’s hopes in the balance
Pedro’s goal for Chelsea in Frankfurt looks like being pivotal in their tie against the Bundesliga outfit. Eintracht know that they have to come to Stamford Bridge and take the game to Chelsea potentially opening themselves up on the counter-attack.
Eintracht currently sit in fourth position in the Bundesliga and have had a fantastic run in Europe up until this point. Both at home and on the continent Adi Hutter’s team have earned plaudits for their swashbuckling style.
However Chelsea have experience of the cut and thrust of high-stakes European games and surely possess enough nous to see off their German counterparts.
The Premier League resurgence
In recent years English clubs have disappointed in European competitions with La Liga sides monopolising continental success. If Arsenal and Chelsea meet each other in the Europa League final in Azerbaijan it will signal an English return to prominence.
Although Spurs and Liverpool both look unlikely to overturn their first-leg deficits in the Champions League, English clubs have still fared well in Europe this season. A Europa League victory for either Arsenal or Chelsea would provide them with a springboard to attack the Champions League next season.
Are Arsenal beatable?
Certainly. Unai Emery’s revolution at The Emirates has so far flattered to deceive. In Arsene Wenger’s last season in charge The Gunners fell at the semi-final stage of the Europa League and finished sixth.
Not much has changed this campaign with Arsenal occupying fifth place in the Premier League at time of writing. Their inability to break into the top four has been characterised by weak, spineless performances away from home.
Something that was used as a trope to denigrate Wenger with last season. The North London side do possess enough quality to worry Chelsea but they are a long-way of the European heavyweights that strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.
The only negative for Chelsea is that with Wenger gone, Arsenal do not seem to have the same mental block that they previously had when it came to facing Chelsea. Jose Mourinho consistently got under Wenger’s skin which has shown in the head-to-head record between the two sides in the past decade.
Although with Arsenal unable to cope with the rigours of an away game an hour-and-a-half north at Leicester, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to rise to the occasion of a London derby in Azerbaijan. The Europa League, at this stage, is Chelsea’s to lose.