We are less than just one week away from the Europa League final in Baku, as Chelsea meet local rivals Arsenal. For us, it’s a chance to win some silverware this season, and our 3rd European trophy in seven years. The game has greater significance for our rivals Arsenal though, who need to win this final to play in the Champions League next season.
Let’s brief you on our journey to Baku, as to how Chelsea confirmed their place in the final.
Unfortunately, Antonio Conte’s 2nd season was nothing short of a disaster in the Premier League, as we went from Champions to 5th place – missing out on the Champions League for only the 2nd time since 2001. Therefore, we had to endure the Europa League from September, playing on those beautiful Thursday nights in countries far spread across Europe. In our group, we had PAOK of Greece, Mol Vidi of Hugary, and Bate Borisov of Belarus. Mauricio Sarri tended to rotate a few players for our matches, but our selection was always good enough to get the result.
We won our first two games via a 1-0 score line against PAOK away before beating MOL Vidi at home. That put us in a great position to progress, and we confirmed that after back to back wins against Bate Borisov. We then beat PAOK 4-0 at home to secure top spot, before drawing our last game which was effectively a dead rubber – 2-2 in MOL Vidi. Highlights of the group stage saw Loftus-Cheek score a hat-trick against Bate Borisov, and Olivier Giroud score four goals in six appearances.
Following the winter break, we returned to the Europa League in March, and faced our last 32 opponents Malmo, of Sweden. We played the side twice in the space of a week, with the first leg away from home. Chelsea did a professional job, as Barkley and Giroud put us in control of the tie with a 2-1 win. At home, we took a while to get going, but three goals in the 2nd half put us comfortably through to the next stage – 5-1 on aggregate.
Round of 16
Whilst Arsenal were losing their away games in the round of 32, and 16, we continued to win every game, and that didn’t stop here either. In the round of 16, we faced Dynamo Kiev, another long travel for the Blues. In the first leg, we won our 4th consecutive game in Europe whilst scoring at least 3 goals, as we won 3-0 with goals coming from Giroud, Barkley and Hudson-Odoi.
For the Chelsea fans that travelled to the 2nd leg, they were not disappointed, as instead of holding out for our 3-0 lead, we ended up winning 5-0, to complete an 8-0 aggregate thrashing! Onto the quarters, and we kept our unbeaten run going, whilst winning nine out of ten.
We felt that we had avoided many of the easier ties in the quarter finals, as we missed Arsenal, Napoli and Benfica. We were rewarded with a trip to Petr Cech’s old team, Slavia Prague from Czech Republic. The first leg was away from home, and to be frank, we were quite dire for the majority of the game.
It didn’t ebb and flow, but thankfully Marcos Alonso popped up with a late winner to keep our winning run going. At home, we came straight out of the blocks, and put the tie to bed with four goals coming in the first 27 minutes, which put us 5-1 up on aggregate. Slavia Prague did fight back on the night as they lost 4-3, but overall it was never in doubt.
Our toughest challenge by an absolute mile was our semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, of Germany. At the time we faced them, they were challenging for a top four spot in the Bundesliga, and also were crowned German Cup champions the year before. In Frankfurt, they took the lead, but Pedro equalised for us. Our 2nd half performance was strong, and felt like we could have nicked a winner away from home, but settled for a 1-1 draw.
In the return leg, we were the ones who stamped our authority on the match, and took the lead through Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Frankfurt did equalise shortly after the interval, so the match was all square on aggregate, and on away goals. It was a game that quickly became frustrating, and it felt Chelsea had run out of steam going into the latter stages. The game went all the way to penalties, and despite César Azpilicueta missing the first pen, Kepa Arrizabalaga managed to make up for his Carabao Cup antics by saving two penalties which took us to the final. Baku, here we come!
Undeniably, we have deserved our spot in the final, and we should go to Baku and reinistate our dominance in European football, and further enhance ourselves as the best London club in European history.
Come on you Blues!