2018-2019 Europa League

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Emery: We can achieve ‘two objectives’ in Europa League final

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According to Unai Emery, the Arsenal squad agreed upon two targets at the start of the 2018-2019 season. Qualify for the UEFA Champions League, preferably through finishing in the top four of the Premier League, and winning the Europa League.

On Wednesday, Arsenal has the chance to accomplish both.

[READ: Drama at Chelsea as Sarri storms out of practice]

“We can win one title and also play with the opportunity to go to the Champions League,” Emery said. “Above all we want to enjoy and play with all our good spirit and also I think this competition is improving a lot and over the last years big teams have played in the final. I hope that in the future Chelsea and Arsenal could be a final in the Champions League! We have a lot of very good players and some of the best players in the world, so it’s a very good moment for football in the world.”

Arsenal hasn’t won a European title since winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994.

One of the big subplots heading into the match is whether Emery will stick with the retiring Petr Cech, who has been the goalkeeper for nearly the entire Europa League run so far, or regular No. 1 Bernd Leno. Emery wouldn’t reveal whether Cech would start, but did say he had something planned for him one way or another.

“I can speak about Petr Cech a lot, but above all he is a great man, a great professional, amazing in his behavior with us and it will be last match tomorrow because he decided to retire,” Emery said. “I want to do something important with him in the last moment of his career – and this has been my conversation with him, playing or not playing. We want to win for us.”

Sarri: Kante given a 50/50 chance to play in UEL final

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It will be a game time decision to see whether N'Golo Kante plays in the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday evening in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Speaking to the assembled media at the Olympic Stadium, the site of the final vs. London rivals Arsenal, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri stated that after suffering a knee injury in training Kante has a 50% chance of playing in the final.

After losing both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to long-term, season-ending injuries in recent weeks, it’s another blow for the Blues to lose Kante, the man who was key to back to back Premier League titles, first with Leicester City and next with Chelsea. While Kante has been playing a different role this season, as a right central midfielder in Sarri’s 4-3-3, he’s still a World Cup winner and it would be a blow to any team to have to replace him.

Chelsea must hope that either Kante is somehow fit enough to start the match, or even if he’s only able to go 30 minutes, that he comes on and helps secure a victory, holding onto a lead. However, there’s also a strong likelihood that he won’t be available at all, though he could be in the 18 as a decoy.

Hazard: ‘Would it be perfect farewell? Yes.’

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Eden Hazard has yet to say the actual words, “I’m leaving Chelsea,” but as of Monday he’s stepping right up to the line. Speaking to Sky Sports in England, Hazard admitted that IF it was his last game at Chelsea, leaving with the UEFA Europa League title would be pretty cool.

[READ: U.S. U-20s pick up big win at World Cup]

“It is a European competition, so for me, for the club, for the manager, for the fans, it is something important,” Hazard told Sky Sports. “When you play a final, it does not matter whether it is the Champions League, Europa League or League Cup, you just want to win, you just want to bring the trophy home and celebrate that.

“When you play for Chelsea at the start of the season, people think about which trophy we can have at the end of May, so this one is the important one. We lost the League Cup final, so at the end of the season this is the trophy we can go for. “I just want to win the trophy, that is it. It does not matter if I score or I do not score. If it is my last game, I hope to bring the trophy.

“Would it be the perfect farewell? Yes.”

Hazard has had an outstanding season under Maurizio Sarri, and quietly put together a 16-goal, 15-assist campaign in 37 Premier League games. The Belgian international looked like he could move away from Chelsea after last year’s World Cup run for Belgium, but Hazard decided to stick around in England for another season.

However, rumors have continued that he’d be leaving this summer for Real Madrid, a destination he previous described as a dream move. And while Hazard hasn’t said he’s for sure leaving, he also hasn’t exactly made any statements saying he’d like to stay through another contract. With 12 months left on his deal, this summer could be the best time for him to go and Chelsea to still gain some value in a transfer fee back to him.

Of course, it gets a bit complicated if Chelsea has its transfer ban from FIFA upheld by the Court for Arbitration and Sport. Then, Chelsea may feel its in their interest to hold onto Hazard for one more year, even if he leaves for free at the end of the season in 2020.

Europa League Roundup: Arsenal shutout Napoli; Eintracht, Valencia advance

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What road problems?

For the second consecutive match, Arsenal picked up a 1-0 win on the road, this time against even tougher competition. Arsenal beat Napoli, 1-0, and 3-0 on aggregate to advance to the Europa League semifinals. Alexandre Lacazette scored a terrific free kick from 30-yards out, taking advantage of Alex Meter shifting the wrong way.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

In the second half, with Napoli needing four goals and pushing, Arsenal relied heavily on its centerback trio of Sokratis, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Saed Kolasinac helping in defense.

It’s a reversal of Arsenal’s recent fortunes, where before Monday, they hadn’t won on the road since February, including in the Europa League to Rennes. However, the 2-0 scoreline from the first leg really gave Arsenal the push and momentum it needed to get past a struggling Napoli side under Carlo Ancelotti.

Elsewhere, Valencia took care of languishing Villarreal in style with a 2-0 victory, winning 5-1 on aggregate, but the real drama took place in Germany.

With Eintracht Frankfurt trailing before kickoff by a pair of goals, the Eagles – well, both Benfica and Eintracht are the Eagles – managed to secure a 2-0 result to advance in the Europa League. Sebastian Rode’s second-half finish off an Ante Rebec pass has kept Eintracht’s season alive in Europe, where Luka Jovic can continue to market himself to the world’s biggest clubs.

Chelsea survive, hold off Slavia Prague to advance to Europa League semis

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Chelsea advanced to the UEFA Europa League semifinals on Thursday evening, but not without a few heart-stopping moments at both ends of the field.

Chelsea defeated Slavia Prague, 4-3, (5-3 on aggregate) in a seven-goal thriller that looked at one point to be headed for double digits in combined goals. Pedro scored a pair of goals, the first on a wonderful team effort, while Olivier Giroud and an own goal also helped Chelsea’s cause.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box scores ]

While Chelsea ran out to an impressive 4-1 lead on the night at the halftime break, Slavia Prague was kept in the game thanks to the right leg of Petr Ševčík, who scored twice early in the second half to make it a game again, and put Slavia just two goals away from an improbable result at Stamford Bridge.

After Tottenham’s wild finish past Manchester City, anything seems to be possible these days. However, Chelsea held down the fort late and survived to advance to the next round.

In the match, Chelsea displayed some of the beautiful soccer that had made Maurizio Sarri such a prized figure in coaching circles. Chelsea’s first goal featured a litany of one-touch passes and great off the ball movement, ending with a Pedro goal.

Chelsea went up 2-0 thanks to an own goal we’ve rarely seen before, as Pedro fired a shot that cannon’d off the post, popped up in the air and directed off Slavia Prague defender Simon Dell and into his own net. Then Giroud scored before Pedro finished at the first post again on what should have been his hat-trick to put Chelsea up 4-1.

However, Ševčík wasn’t finished yet, and the Czech midfielder popped a pair of great goals to make for some nervy moments late at Stamford Bridge. Ultimately, though, Chelsea was able to move on and advance to the semifinals. Chelsea will next face Eintracht Frankfort, which completed a terrific home comeback with a 2-0 win to go through past Benfica on away goals, tied 4-4 on aggregate.