Chelsea and Arsenal managed to progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League, creating a very realistic possibility of there being an all-English final. The last time there was an all-English final in the competition was in the very first edition, back in the 1971/72 season, when it was called the UEFA Cup. Tottenham Hotspur finished as champions, defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 on aggregate.
The most recent English finalist to fail to win was Liverpool who, despite taking the lead through a 35th minute Daniel Sturridge goal, ultimately lost the final 3-1 against Sevilla. Manchester United were the most recent winners, defeating Dutch side Ajax 2-0.
In Europa League betting, Arsenal and Chelsea both looking good for the final, and here we’ll take a look at both clubs and whether we will really see two English clubs go head-to-head for a place in next season’s Champions League.
The Gunners were arguably the more impressive of the two remaining English clubs, having kept two clean sheets against Italian club Napoli. The Italians defeated Champions League semi-finalist Liverpool in the group stage of the Champions League earlier this season, making Arsenal’s 3-0 aggregate win all the more impressive.
Arsenal got their quarter-final tie off to a great start, defeating Gli Azzurri 2-0 at the Emirates. Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring for Arsenal before Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly turned into his own net to give Arsenal a two-goal lead before the half hour mark in the first leg. The Gunners dominated the game and could well have won by more, the fact that they hadn’t gave Napoli a glimmer of hope of progressing when the two played the return leg in Naples.
Napoli sit second in Serie A, and their fans must have been expecting a good performance on home soil to put them through to the semi-final. Unfortunately for them, despite Arsenal’s woeful away form this season, they put in a solid defensive display to prevent the Italians from scoring, and an Alexandre Lacazette goal gave Arsenal a 3-0 aggregate win.
Next up for Arsenal are La Liga club Valencia, who have yet to lose in this season’s Europa League and have only drawn once. Arsenal will need to be wary of their Spanish opposition, but with players like Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front, you’d expect the Gunners to reach the final.
On paper, Chelsea had the easier draw of the two English clubs in the last round, having been drawn against Czech club Slavia Prague. A Marcos Alonso goal in the final five minutes of the first leg in the Czech Republic gave Chelsea a narrow 1-0 lead to take back to London.
If the first leg failed to provide entertainment, then the second leg more than made up for it, with Chelsea going 3-0 up within the first 20 minutes, courtesy of goals from Pedro, Olivier Giroud and an own goal by Simon Deli.
4-0 up on aggregate, Chelsea looked comfortable, but a goal from Tomas Soucek gave the Czech side a tiny fragment of hope after 25 minutes of the second leg. Pedro doubled his tally two minutes later to put the Blues 4-1 up in the match and 5-1 up on aggregate.
Although the tie was effectively over, Slavia Prague weren’t done yet, with midfielder Petr Sevcik scoring twice early on in the second half to put the Czech club just two goals off progressing. Although there were 35 minutes left on the clock when Prague scored their third, they failed to add to their tally and Chelsea progressed in a thrilling encounter.
Eintracht Frankfurt await Chelsea in the semi-final, and as the favourites to win the competition, you’d expect Chelsea to progress to the final. Croatian striker Ante Rebic and French striker Sebastien Haller could prove influential for the Bundesliga club, and Chelsea will need to avoid embarrassing results like the 2-2 draw with Burnley they recently suffered.
Should both English clubs make it to the final, expect Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, formerly of Arsenal, to step up his game and prove to his former employers that he has what it takes to win games for clubs.