Chance for Sarri and Emery to reverse season
When Chelsea meets Arsenal in the Europa League final on the shores of the Caspian Sea on Wednesday, it might be coach Maurizio Sarri’s last match in charge despite what appears as a solid first year at Stamford Bridge.
Under the Italian, Chelsea has qualified for the Champions League next season and reached the final of the domestic League Cup before losing in a penalty shootout against Manchester City.
By contrast Arsenal, under Unai Emery in his first season in London, missed out on the four Champions League spots on offer in the Premier League after a late slump in form.
The Gunners must now beat their city rivals in the Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku to squeeze into Europe’s premier competition.
Yet it is Sarri who seems to be on the shakier ground, not least because of Chelsea’s record of hiring and firing managers.
Sarri, who has been linked with the vacant coach’s position at Juventus, acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding his future in the run-up to the trip to Baku.
“I have to speak with my club after the final. I want to know if they are happy with me or not,” he said.
“I think we had a good season with a lot of problems, of course. We lost two or three matches very badly but we had a good season in the end.”
Arsenal’s strike force of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will fancy its chances against Chelsea’s often shaky defence, which will be missing the injured Antonio Rudiger.
Defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante is expected to be fit for selection after a hamstring injury but England’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi are out of contention with Achilles tendon injuries.
The Gunners’ back line proved to be its own weak link during the domestic season, giving Eden Hazard a chance to shine on what many Chelsea fans fear will be his last appearance for the Blues.
He is expected to move to Real Madrid in the summer.
Arsenal will also suffer from the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan who decided not to travel to Baku because of concerns over his safety in Azerbaijan.
The final gives Emery a chance to win the Europa League for a fourth time having led Sevilla to glory in the competition for three years in a row between 2014 and 2016. By contrast, Sarri has yet to win a major title as a coach.
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