The Big Match Tactical View: Chelsea v Arsenal
It's a double-header of all-English European finals this week, starting with Chelsea and Arsenal fighting it out for the Europa League. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson assesses the soccer predict today.
Chelsea v Arsenal
Wednesday 20:00, BT Sport hai / BT Sport YouTube.
Match Odds: Chelsea hai.50, Arsenal 3.20, The Draw 3.50.
Chelsea and Arsenal finish their season with a London derby - albeit one played 3,000 miles away in Baku, where there will be few Arsenal fans in attendance, and even fewer Chelsea supporters. With this match kicking off at 11pm local time, it will be something of a surreal encounter, but one with great significance for both sides.
It clearly means more, of course, lớn Arsenal. Chelsea have confirmed their Champions League participation with their third-placed Premier League finish, and with their preparation for this soccer tips daily win interrupted by a post-season friendly in America, there are suggestions some of the players are already in holiday mood. For Arsenal, this result will essentially decide whether Unai Emery's first season is considered a success or a failure.
Injury problems for Sarri
Both sides have selection issues. Maurizio Sarri is without both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who have both suffered Achilles' tendon injuries - a disastrous end of the campaign for two players who had forced their way into Chelsea's first XI. Antonio Rudiger is also still out, and there's a major doubt about N'Golo Kante. All this means that, at the end of a campaign where Chelsea's first XI has been very predictable from week lớn week, there are now serious doubts.
Defensively, this means that David Luiz will be partnered by Andreas Christensen, a capable back-up individually, but these two don't work particularly well as a pairing. Cesar Azpilicueta will play right-back, while at left-back Sarri must choose between Marcos Alonso, who often plays well against Arsenal, and Emerson Palmieri, who has started more regularly in recent weeks.
Hazard the main threat
In midfield, the probable absence of Kante means Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic both starting, although they're competing lớn play if Kante makes the game - and the fact he's travelled to Baku suggests he's in contention. The other midfielder will be Jorginho, sitting deep in front of the defence.
Further forward there are two familiar debates - Pedro Rodriguez or Willian on the right flank, and Olivier Giroud or Gonzalo Higuain upfront. Pedro and Giroud seem more likely, although it's not impossible that Sarri could use Eden Hazard upfront with Pedro and Willian either side, as has been the case on occasion this season.