Petr Cech

AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Europa League Final preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea

1 Comment

It’s Arsenal last chance at qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, and perhaps Maurizio Sarri‘s final opportunity to win a piece of silverware at Chelsea.

And, oh yeah, it’s a London Derby pitting rivals against each other in a controversial setting for a European final.

Chelsea and Arsenal meet Wednesday for the right to lift the UEFA Cup, squaring off in Baku, Azerbaijan at 3 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Arsenal will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who elected to skip the match given the poor relations between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia. Chelsea may be missing N'Golo Kante, though the Blues have not ruled out the influential French midfielder.

The weight of the game is heavier for Arsenal, who will have to sell summer recruits on a year free of the Champions League if it fails to win in Baku.

We don’t know whether Unai Emery will tab Petr Cech as his starting goalkeeper before the Arsenal man leaves for the sporting director role at Chelsea.

Cech is still focused on the Gunners, and says not to be worried about Arsenal rising to the occasion.

“I feel that when Arsenal need to win, we win,” he said. “You go to Athens in the last Champions League group game needing to win 2-0 and you win 3-0. No matter where, we win, because that fire was right behind us as we had to really win. The pressure was what was pushing us.”

Both Sarri and Eden Hazard could be appearing at their final match for Chelsea, and the playmaking Real Madrid target feels this is a good chance to say goodbye from a top position.

“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.”

It’s the second Europa League Final for both teams, with Arsenal losing to Galatasaray in penalty kicks (2000) and Chelsea beating Benfica in 2013.

Sky: Chelsea set to appoint Cech as sporting director

BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Petr Cech is staying in London.

The longtime Chelsea goalkeeper is set to return to the club as sporting director following Arsenal’s Europa League Final against… well… Chelsea.

Cech, 37, is calling time on his legendary playing career and will not simply be drumming into the sunset.

[ MORE: Man Utd nears $20m signing ]

He’ll return to a club with which he earned 15 trophies including two Champions Leagues. The three-time Best European Goalkeeper also won three trophies with Arsenal.

It would be pretty surprising if Unai Emery selected him over Bernd Leno for the final in Azerbaijan, but Cech is certainly respected worldwide and will be the type of personality to bring some stability to Chelsea.

Will he have to hire a manager, though?

Petr Cech to retire at end of season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Legendary goalkeeper Petr Cech has announced he will retire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

The current Arsenal stopper, 36, is one of the most successful goalkeepers in Premier League history as he has won trophies at Arsenal and Chelsea during his 15-year career in England’s top-flight.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Cech has the most clean sheets in PL history, holds the record for the must shutouts in a single season (24 in 2004-05) and made 494 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions.

He also won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, a UEFA Champions League trophy, a Europa League title and two Community Shields during his 11-year stay at Chelsea. Cech has also won an FA Cup and Community Shield during his four seasons at Arsenal.

Cech is the only goalkeeper in Premier League history to win the PL’s Golden Glove with two different clubs, while he was also the quickest to reach 100 clean sheets (180 games). He is also the most capped player for the Czech Republic national team with 124 outings, a huge chunk of them as captain.

He announced Tuesday that he will call time on his career at the end of the current campaign and posted the following statement.

His status as a legend of the game is secured, even if he has lost his place as a regular starter for Arsenal this season following Bernd Leno‘s arrival in the summer.

Cech arrived at Chelsea in 2004 from French side Rennes and was an immediate star for Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Chelsea.

He has also had some tough times to get through in England, as he fractured his skull in a game against Reading in 2006 and has worn a protective helmet ever since.

Cech also lost his place at Chelsea to Thibaut Courtois in 2014 and then moved to Arsenal in the summer of 2015, even though it became clear he would have rather seen his playing days out at Stamford Bridge.

In his spare time he plays the drums, while he can also speak Czech, English, Spanish, French and German.

It is safe to say Cech is one of the greatest goalkeepers the world has ever seen and we will see him stay in the game in some capacity for many years to come.

Emery shoots down Keylor Navas rumor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There has been lots of talk regarding Arsenal’s potential interest in Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas in the last few weeks, with the Costa Rican obviously unhappy at being replaced by Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid brought the Belgian in this summer, relegating Navas to the bench. With Navas still regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, it naturally brought about speculation regarding his potential move away from the Bernebeu. Many believed Arsenal to be a great fit, with Petr Cech benched by Unai Emery and Bernd Leno not exactly lighting up the stat sheet.

Emery brought an end to that speculation on Thursday, leaving nothing to the imagination when asked about the speculation at his pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup match against Blackpool.

“Not true,” Emery said defiantly. “We never speak about one goalkeeper because I think – and it’s true – we are very happy with the three goalkeepers we have now. We’ve never spoken about Keylor Navas.”

Emery mentions his “three goalkeepers” suggesting that even third-stringer Emiliano Martinez’s position is safe at the moment.

Leno took over for Cech in late September after Cech went down with a hamstring injury, and the German never relinquished his position between the sticks. Cech missed two matches but has returned only to a spot on the bench. Still, Arsenal has conceded 31 goals this season, far more than any of the four teams above them in the Premier League table. Much of that can be explained by the defensive struggles the team has been forced to navigate, but the goalkeepers should also naturally share some of that blame.

Still, it appears that Navas will have to find another club to rescue him from the Real Madrid bench, with Arsenal all but out of the running.

Lacazette leads Arsenal to win over Watford

Leave a comment
  • Own goal puts Gunners ahead
  • Lacazette finds Ozil for 2-0
  • Watford winless in four

Arsenal broke through late to beat Watford 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Craig Cathcart‘s 81st minute own goal was joined by Mesut Ozil’s 83rd minute strike to provide three points to the Gunners.

Arsenal sits fifth, level on points with fourth place Spurs. Watford drops into sixth, two points back of the Gunners.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Alexandre Lacazette could’ve won a penalty had he gone down under a Christian Kabasele challenge, but he wobbled forward and mishit a shot. Perhaps he should’ve anyway, by that logic, but we digress.

Watford backstop Ben Foster made a decent stop on Granit Xhaka as the half-progressed, while Arsenal’s story between the sticks was a substitution when Petr Cech was injured and gave way to Bernd Leno.

Arsenal’s second half breakthrough began when an Alex Iwobi cross became Cathcart’s own goal and escalated quickly, with Ozil making it 2-0 within three minutes.

Lacazette assisted the Ozil goal with a decent low cross.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]