A London derby taking place 2,500 miles from the English capital – it must be a lucrative pre-season fixture, right? Wrong. Arsenal and Chelsea go head-to-head tonight in the Europa League final in Baku, Azerbaijan, in a game surrounded by controversy. With a limited ticket allocation for each club, an airport that allegedly can’t handle large crowds and Arsenal’s Armenian star Henrikh Mkhitaryan not travelling for fears over his safety, it’s safe to say the build-up hasn’t been exactly what either club or UEFA were hoping for.

There is a football match taking place though, a trophy to be won and importantly for Arsenal, a Champions League place up for grabs. We sat down two UCFB students who have made a name for themselves on Twitter for each club. Jordan Brightman-Charles, a Chelsea fan from 100% Chelsea and BA (Hons) Multimedia Sports Journalism student (@MyGuyRudi), and Jack Goldenberg, Arsenal fan and BA (Hons) Sports Business & Sports Law student (@ThePlugAFC), discussed the game, the controversy and the season just gone…

Jordan – Let’s just get right into this, what do you think of the Mkhitaryan situation?

Jack – It’s sad that it was seen coming in the first place, but this further adds to the points against UEFA in regards to why they felt the need to play this game in Baku! I think it massively overpowers the issues of flights and tickets too, especially due to UEFA’s stance on political issues in football.

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Jordan – I agree, it’s an absolute joke of a situation and has shown that UEFA have planned this event poorly. Whilst I understand that there are political issues in most countries, for it to get to this level is an absolute travesty, especially with this issue already having come to light when Arsenal played Qarabag earlier in the competition. For the people who say “it’s only Mkhitaryan”, that’s far from the issue. What would UEFA do if it was Ronaldo or Messi who was either banned from a host nation or at risk of danger from that nation?

Jack – The argument people made for the Qarabag game that it’s “only Mkhitaryan” is flawed. Regardless of his form this season, on paper he is one of our better players and one of highest paid by the club. This gives us a massive disadvantage compared to Chelsea. UEFA have given a few statements in the past week in regards to the matter of travel being issues, and explaining how they couldn’t foresee a dual English final, as an example. However, this scenario alone was clearly an issue at the point of allocating stadia for the final, due to the long term issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Jordan – All around this has raised a lot of issues. Touching on the matter of flights/accommodation/tickets etc., the ticket sales for both clubs have surely shown that this has been a mistake by UEFA. Whilst I understand that the Azerbaijani FA are members of UEFA and should be afforded the same rights and respects as other members, the distance it has from the rest of Europe (as well as political tensions with Armenia) should’ve definitely been considered during the hosting process.
Jack – It doesn’t matter who the finalists are, any club in a European final would need a lot more than 6,000 tickets and would want to bring a huge following for such a huge occasion for any club.

Jordan – Let’s talk injuries. We’ve experienced a fair few as of late (Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi and Rudiger) and all three of them have been key players, all of whom I presume would have started the final had they not been injured. The worst of the three for me being Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a player who has been our talisman as of late. Obviously we’re not the only ones with injury woes though.

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Jack – We have no Ramsey, Bellerin, Holding and of course Mkhi. Bellerin and Holding are massive losses.

Jordan – Do you think Emery will be able to enter with a calm mentality heading into this?

Jack – I think so, considering his success with Sevilla in the competition. Our club posted a video with the two men who run the club, Vinai and Raul, who even said from day one Emery wanted the Europa League. But I do think his reasons to be calm have also stopped us getting into the Champions League through top four.

Jordan – It’s an interesting point you make on his Europa League comfort costing you top four. Even with everyone’s previous criticisms of Emery I was still shocked to see your league campaign capitulate in the manner that it did.

Jack – I think it came down to inexperience with the league; I disagree with people pointing out moments in the season like Auba’s last-minute penalty miss vs Spurs at Wembley. It was our home game vs Palace that cost us. We shouldn’t have played a weaker team due to “two hard away games”. You don’t go easy on teams like Palace.

Jordan – I think that the pressure could get to you as your squad have more to play for than ours in a sense as we’ve secured Champions League football already. But I think the two managers themselves will have their own personal feeling that this is a must win match.
Jack – I think the game come down to whichever manager deals with the two and half week break the best in regards to fatigue. It’s very hard to call in my opinion.

Jordan – Some reports suggesting Sarri will be removed regardless of result, that it makes me fear that he will approach the match with a more indifferent mind-set.

Jack – I think he will want to win it as he hasn’t won a trophy before and I think that could be classed as pressure. But his domestic achievements would grant him to stay for another year minimum based on fact he came third and got to two cup finals?

Jordan – You may have a point, but as a Chelsea fan you never know what to expect with the board. What’s your prediction for the match?

Jack – I don’t give score predictions, but the way I look at it is that it will come down to whichever manager has worked the team better since the end of the league season and how he manages the fatigue within each squad. You?

Jordan – I’m going to take a page out of your book by not predicting the score, but I do predict that there’ll be a penalty at some point in the match.