As the two London clubs meet in European football’s second-tier competition both have very different reasons for wanting to win it.
Premier League has swept across Europe this season, and there’s no changing that. With Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool taking on each other at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Champions League final on June 1, the Europa League final will witness Chelsea go head-to-head against London rivals Arsenal in another mouth-watering clash.
Both teams are helmed by new managers who are trying to leave their imprints and footballing ideologies as part of cultures at clubs that had different ideologies for the longest time. While Unai Emery has had a forgettable away form late into the season, Maurizio Sarri will still be thinking about how to perfectly use Jorginho in his midfield, a player who needs a little more space and time than the Premier League usually affords.
The Chelsea manager is looking at his first competitive trophy, while Emery has been the boss of this one, winning three on the trot during his time at Sevilla.
Europe, though, has been a different ball game for both sides. Chelsea has fielded their best player Eden Hazard just three times, and yet, are in the finals. Olivier Giroud leads the charts with 8, and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has scored two less for the Gunners. Thus, fans can expect goals in the final and it will be one of the most entertaining Europa League showdowns in recent history.
Here, we take a look at the three key battles on the pitch that may well decide the outcome of the same.
- Mesut Ozil vs Jorginho
When Jorginho arrived at the Premier League at the onset of the season and after some very effective performances, the Blues’ supporters had termed him the PL’s ‘Sergio Busquets’ – and they were not very far from the truth. He may not be in the league of Julien Weigl, but the English League doesn’t afford the kind of space Bundesliga allows.
Mesut Ozil impressed in their 2-0 win over Manchester United
The effectiveness may have reduced, inarguably, but on his days, Jorginho is still one of the best passers in the world, sitting deep for his side. He, though, expects runners to provide him the perfect foil. With N’Golo Kante injured for the showdown, it will be interesting to see how Jorginho operates with a makeshift midfield. The Italian has made 92 accurate long passes and has thread through the defences 34 times, and from the position he operates in, it’s no mean feat.
Adding to that already, he will have to take care of a certain Mesut Ozil, who at his peak is one of the best in the world. Ozil always has that extra time to pick out a move or an onrushing player, and it looks like Rohit Sharma sweetly timing a 150 kmph delivery for a hoiked six. The German playmaker may not have had the best couple of weeks in recent times, but in the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who’s out of the tie due to safety issues), he’ll be anointed more responsibility.
And to mark him, Jorginho will have to play out of his skin. Danny Drinkwater could be thrown into the mix, but the former Leicester player can be expected to be rusty, and thus, it will be down to Jorginho to pick those forward passes from deep midfield, as well as shut Ozil down.
Ozil’s passing accuracy is nearing the 90% mark in all competitions this season, if there’s one man a lot of football fans entrust to find key passes with just the perfectly-weighted ball, it’s the 30-year-old German, who has won at the highest echelons of world football. It will be a pulsating final for the duo, both having key roles to play in their teams’ juggernaut in the centre of the pitch.
- Pierre Emerick Aubameyang vs David Luiz
Raw pace vs raw power. Raw adventurism from both ends. This is probably the most entertaining battle that is set to ensue in Baku on the final night. Aubameyang is one of the fastest players on the globe and with help from Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil, the Gabon striker has the ability to latch onto half chances and convert them.
???? Fire and Ice ❄️
Aubameyang ???? Lacazette
Arsenal’s dynamic duo have struck up a fearsome partnership this season and produced some fantastic goals! pic.twitter.com/NEsz2ivAEP
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 26, 2019
David Luiz didn’t participate in the group stages of the competition, but has been ever present in the knockouts. The Brazilian centre back made three tackles, nine clearances, and four blocks over the two legs against Eintracht Frankfurt and will be expected to continue in the same vein.
On the other hand, Auba scored a hattrick in the semifinals against Valencia, and recently picked up the Golden Boot of the Premier League alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. He’s high on confidence, and if Auba starts singing with his feet, Luiz may not like the tune. Auba is a few goals away from becoming the highest scorer in this tournament, and if Giroud doesn’t score and he claims a hattrick, he’ll have another individual medal to lift. This, though, won’t matter much as the African would hope to take his team over the line.
- Eden Hazard vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles
16 goals and 15 assists and yet, Eden Hazard is not the Premier League Player of the Year. The forward will also hope to win silverware before the off-season. Hazard is close to a Real Madrid move if reports are to be believed, and the Bridge faithful would expect their long-time mainstay to end his London sojourn on a high, albeit away from home.
Maitland-Niles may be new to the hard-work of senior football, but is certainly no pushover. The 21 year old winger-turned-wing-back does his fair share of tracking back and will look to nullify Hazard’s significant threat. The English youngster certainly isn’t a bad player to have at your disposal in this situation – He’s fast, hard working, and has made an impressive 19 tackles in his eight Europa League starts this season. That is terrific for someone who’s having his first full season at the highest level.
Hazard, though, is at a different level altogether when he’s on song. He starts running with the ball, and twists and turns his way into opposition boxes like taking a walk in the park. The Belgian will expect to plummet his stakes further in the final, probably pushing his sale price up by a few pounds. The 28-year-old is at his peak and never shies away from a big one, and with the local stakes and continental glory, he’ll certainly try to make it a positive swansong, if it has to be that way.