With no direct flights, a minimum journey time of seven hours and a minuscule ticket allocation of just 6,000 for each side, it’s safe to say that Baku isn’t the most fan-friendly location for a tournament final. Which is a shame, given the importance of the fixture for both sides. Chelsea have the chance to repeat their success in 2012-13 and cement their place as best of the rest (behind Manchester City and Liverpool) in England, while Arsenal have the chance to secure a Champions League spot for next season and make manager Unai Emery the outright record-holder for the competition in both its iterations (UEFA Cup and UEL).
Chelsea drew both legs of their semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, eventually triumphing on penalties, courtesy of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s penalty saves from Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia. They enter the final unbeaten in the competition and on a record run of 18 fixtures without loss that stretches across seasons. They also boast the tournament’s top scorer in French striker Olivier Giroud, who has 10 goals in the competition.
In all competitions, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight matches, including a recent friendly match against MLS side New England Revolution – with breakout midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek suffering a long-term injury in the game. The Blues have kept clean sheets in three of their last four outings but have only scored more than one goal on two occasions in their last six matches. They’ll also be without Antonio Rudiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi; N’Golo Kante is currently a doubt, having suffered an injury in training on Saturday.
Arsenal’s progress through the semi-finals was emphatic; a hat-trick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and an Alexandre Lacazette goal securing a 4-2 away win in the second leg at Valencia and sealing an overall victory on aggregate of 7-3. Having endured a poor end to the season in domestic competition (four losses from seven fixtures) Arsenal missed out on a Champions League spot and finished 5th in the Premier League. With a Champions League spot on the line, success in the final would represent a double-win for the North London side.
In manager Unai Emery, the Gunners boast the most successful manager in the tournament’s history since it’s rebranding as the Europa League. Another win for the former Sevilla manager – who triumphed in 2014, 2015 and 2016 – would separate him as the most successful manager outright, across both UEFA Cup and UEL, placing him one win ahead of legendary Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni.
This match isn’t as close to call as you might expect, with Chelsea favourites to improve upon their Carabao Cup final performance and win the match at odds of 27/20 (2.35). Despite their resounding victory in the semi-final and having Emery at the helm, Arsenal are 41/20 (3.05) to triumph.
It might seem a little surprising that Arsenal aren’t entering this fixture as favourites given their destruction of Valencia in the semi-finals, the man they have in charge of the team and the extra prize on offer to them. But Chelsea’s record in the competition over recent seasons cannot be ignored. The Blues have the longest unbeaten run in the history of the competition and finished the season in better form than Arsenal.
While the outcome of this game is not guaranteed, goals almost certainly are. In 20 of 27 fixtures played by Arsenal away from the Emirates, at least three goals have been scored. For Chelsea, seven of their last 10 Europa League games have featured at least 3 goals. So, we’d back the Europa League master Emery to cause an upset and get Arsenal across the line in a high scoring game; bet on Arsenal to win and 2.5 goals at 17/5 (4.40).
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of going to print.
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