It’s not exactly a secret that the Champions League is the pinnacle of European competition in the world of football, and in many ways, it’s the biggest and best club contest in the entire sport. The majority of clubs who really believe they’ve got a chance of getting there will always have that as one of their end goals, but sometimes, you need to go down a different route.
That route, as we all know, is the Europa League. It’s the secondary European club competition out there right now, and has been for many years. We’re at the semi final stage of proceedings with all four teams having a great chance of reaching the final in Baku, as they prepare to lock horns in their respective matches this evening.
Arsenal and Chelsea, both of the Premier League, will be attempting to replicate Manchester United & Chelsea back in 2008 by setting up an all-English European final. The two teams will take on Eintracht Frankfurt and Valencia respectively, and interestingly enough, all four teams find themselves in a very similar position.
On the edge
They’re all on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League via their league standings, but all have a few games left to really cement their places. Chelsea and Frankfurt are in the best position out of all four, with the Gunners and Valencia currently being on the outside looking in.
That should make for a pretty interesting dynamic over the course of these two legs, and especially in the final. It’s all about managing your resources at this stage with two competitions to deal with, and not every team is great at doing that. Some put too much focus into one as opposed to other, failing to find that balance in the process.
When it comes to Chelsea it certainly seems like they’re growing in confidence as the weeks go on, with Evening Standard reporting that their players are a bit fed up of people writing them off. We can understand why that would annoy them, but at the same time, it does feel like their inconsistency this season has warranted some form of criticism.
The back story
For Arsenal, as reported by The Guardian, they’ll have their own set of issues to deal with as Unai Emery will be anticipating a hostile reaction from Valencia fans both home and away. Of course, none of that really matters in comparison to the actual games themselves, but it’s always interesting when there’s a little bit of backstory to go alongside the general anxiety of a game of this magnitude.
Chelsea and Arsenal are no strangers to the late stages of European competition, but this time around, it certainly feels like there’s something in the air when it comes to the ‘push back’ against English teams. We’ve already seen Liverpool and Tottenham lose the first leg of their respective Champions League ties, and given the quality that both Frankfurt and Valencia possess, there’s absolutely no way of guaranteeing that we’ll see a Premier League side compete in a European final this year.