It’s looking very likely that an English team will win the Europa League this season, ending Spanish domination of the competition. Chelsea have only won the Europa League once in their history -back in 2013, and Arsenal have never won the tournament, but they are the two heavy favorites to meet for the title in Baku after their first leg performances against Eintracht Frankfurt and Valencia.
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The rule of thumb for visiting teams in two-legged competitions is to score an away goal and earn a result if possible. Chelsea did both of those things in the first leg of their tie with Eintracht Frankfurt. For a while, it looked like Eintracht would come out on a top. The hosts started strong and controlled the run of play for the first half hour, and they were rewarded for their efforts with a Luka Jovic goal in the 21st minute. Unfortunately that ended up being their lone bright spot, as they finished with just 3 shots and they could have easily suffered a home loss.
Chelsea were a bit unfortunate to not score in the second half. The Blues righted the ship later on in the first half, and they leveled just before the halftime whistle with a goal from Pedro. They tilted the field heavily in their favor in the latter 45 minutes of the game and could have ended with two or three goals. Eintracht can feel some confidence heading into this leg despite their vulnerability. The German club drew 0-0 with Inter Milan in the first leg of their Round of 16 tilt, and they were heavy underdogs to make it through after that. However, they went into Milan and won the second leg 1-0 to advance to this point.
There are other reasons to be optimistic too. Forward Ante Rebic was suspended for the first leg of this tie last Thursday, and both Eintracht and Jovic should be more dangerous with Rebic available once more. Eintracht may also have Sebastien Haller back from injury too, giving their attack an even stronger kick.
The hosts are in a much better position too. Chelsea have now clinched a top four Premier League finish after their win over the weekend, so their Champions League spot next season is assured. That means they don’t have to worry about resting some players for their season finale. Additionally, Eden Hazard will likely play the full match after playing only the final 30 minutes in the first leg, and the team’s talisman will make them more dangerous. It’s hard to see Chelsea not winning this one, so the Blues are the bet.
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Arsenal needed a win in the first leg of their tie with Valencia, and the Gunners eventually got the multiple goal victory they desperately needed. The Bats threatened numerous times during their time at the Emirates though. Valencia largely controlled the first 15 minutes and Mouctar Diakhaby gave Valencia the lead and a crucial away goal early. The Gunners needed some strong play from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to make it through the first leg, and they got just that. Lacazette settled the hometown crowd with a goal in the 18th and sent them into euphoria with a goal in the 25th minute. It took Aubameyang longer to make his presence felt, but he eventually netted in the 90th minute and gave Arsenal a crucial insurance goal.
That will be needed since Arsenal’s back line has been underwhelming throughout the season. The Gunners have allowed 50 goals this campaign, and the lack of consistency has worn on both Unai Emery and supporters. It seems as if Emery has decided the best defense is a good offense, and he will push forward and not rely on his defense too much. I think the over will be a sharp bet as a result, and I think Valencia will earn a win.
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