With less than two weeks to go until the Europa League final, Chelsea and Arsenal will be preparing to do battle in Azerbaijan. In Chelsea v Arsenal Betfair odds, it is the Blues who look most likely to claim European glory.
A clash between two teams, located less than 15km apart, held around 2,500 miles away in Baku seems somewhat ridiculous, but it is what it is and the two clubs will be hoping to win the Europa League to give themselves something to celebrate this season.
For the 6,000 fans of each club, they won’t just witness a battle between the two best teams in this season’s Europa League, but also a battle to win the Golden Boot. While Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud currently leads the race, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is only two goals behind and has the talent to overtake his French counterpart.
While Giroud has failed to be prolific in the Premier League for Chelsea, it has been a whole different story in the Europa League. The 32-year-old has found the back of the net on 10 occasions of his 13 European appearances this season, meaning he has contributed to almost a third of Chelsea’s Europa League goals this season.
He is without a doubt a valuable asset to this Chelsea side, and with an impending transfer embargo, manager Maurizio Sarri must be desperate not to lose him this summer. Giroud has provided another option up front for the Blues this season, allowing for Alvaro Morata (for the first half of the season) and Gonzalo Higuain to be saved for the league matches.
It’s not just a case of the number of goals Giroud has scored for Chelsea in Europe, but also the importance of some of them. In the group stage, he netted the winner against Belarussian club BATE, in what was an important 1-0 away win.
Another group game, another important goal from the French striker. This time it was away to Hungarian club Vidi, in which the Blues were 2-1 down before Giroud scored an equaliser in the 75th minute to give Chelsea a point.
In the knockout stage, Giroud scored against Swedish side Malmö to put the Blues 2-0 up in the away leg. While they were already winning when he scored, the Swedish club got a goal back in the 80th minute, essentially making his goal the winner.
The Gabonese striker is the only realistic challenger to Giroud in the race for the Europa League Golden Boot, with eight goals in 11 games. Those who doubt his chances need to bear in mind that he was two goals behind Premier League leading scorer Mo Salah prior to the final game of the season and managed to score a brace to help him tie with Salah and Salah’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane on 22 goals.
Along with Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang is one of Arsenal’s most prized assets and he has proven his worth this season with 31 goals in 50 games across all competitions. His two goals against Ukrainian side Vorskla helped the Gunners get off to a great Europa League campaign with a 4-2 win.
After Arsenal suffered a 3-1 defeat away to Rennes in the first leg of their round of 16 match, they needed a miracle to progress. Step forward Aubameyang who scored in the fifth minute of the second leg to give some hope to Arsenal fans. He then provided the assist for Ashley Maitland-Niles in the 15th minute to make the score 2-0 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate. On the 72nd minute, he added to his tally, putting Arsenal through 4-3 on aggregate.
He scored a brace in the first leg of the semi-final to give Arsenal a 3-1 lead against Valencia. In the return leg at the Estadio de Mestalla, he netted an incredible hat-trick to put Arsenal through 7-3 on aggregate and leave the Gabonese striker just two goals behind Giroud.
It’s going to a close race between the pair in the final. Should Giroud manage to breach his former club’s defence, then expect him to walk away with the prize, but otherwise, watch out for an Aubameyang brace or potentially even a hat-trick to seal two Golden Boots this season.