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Chelsea v Arsenal preview | Gunners to miss injured star, Leno to start + prediction

By on May 29, 2019

Arsenal will look to end our 25 year wait for a European trophy when we take on Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku this evening.

The game has been overshadowed by controversy following UEFA’s bizarre decision to host the final in Azerbaijan. Thousands of match-going fans from both clubs have been forced to stay home and miss the final due to the complexities and cost of travelling while Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan hasn’t made the trip due to safety fears amid on-going tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

But we have to put all that behind us and focus on the match as it’s a huge night for Arsenal. It’s arguably our biggest game in a decade as we desperately need to lift a European trophy and get back in the Champions League.

Missing out on the top four was a big blow and we only have ourselves to blame as we somehow managed to take just one point from games against Crystal Palace, Wolves, Leicester and Brighton during the closing stages of the season. However, we have a second bite at the cherry and we can’t pass up this chance to get back among Europe’s elite.

The good news is Unai Emery is a Europa League specialist as he won the competition three times while managing Sevilla and he’ll be up against Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri who’s never won a major trophy in his 29 years of management.

Team news

Aaron Ramsey will miss the game through injury and his absence will be a huge blow for Arsenal as he was in superb form before picking up the hamstring issue earlier this month.

Mkhitaryan obviously isn’t available but our attacking options have been boosted by the return of Danny Welbeck after he recovered from a broken ankle. Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Denis Suarez and Dinos Mavropanos remain on the sidelines.

As for Chelsea, they’ll be without Antonio Rudiger, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi while N’Golo Kante is also a major doubt with a knee injury. It would be a big boost for Arsenal if the Frenchman is ruled out.

Preferred line-up

Bernd Leno HAS to start. Petr Cech has kept goal for the majority of the Europa League campaign this season but he’s set to join Chelsea as a sporting director when his contract expires next month. If that’s not enough to persuade you he shouldn’t start, the simple fact is Leno is the better goalkeeper and there is no place for sentiment in this huge game.

I’d go with a back four as that’s how we set-up during the 2-0 win over Chelsea in January. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is more comfortable at right wing-back but he’s still a better all-round option than Stephan Lichtsteiner or Carl Jenkinson.

This would be me line-up:

football formations

In reality, Emery will probably go 3-4-1-2 with Sead Kolasinac at left wing-back. Matteo Guendouzi will probably be the man to make way.

As for Chelsea, they’re expected to go with: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Alonso, Jorginho, Barkley, Kovacic, Pedro, Hazard, Giroud

Score prediction

I hate giving predictions for games like this as anything can happen in a one-off final. Arsenal have a poor record against English opposition in Europe but Emery thrives on occasions like this. We need to back him as night’s like these are precisely why he was hired.

We were superb during the 2-0 win over Chelsea in January so hopefully we can replicate that performance. Ramsey will be a big miss but we still have the quality to beat Chelsea.

As long as we don’t give away any silly, cheap goals then I’m confident we can get the job done. I’m going with Arsenal to edge it. Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea!

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