On Thursday, we will see which two teams are playing in the Europa League Final in Baku at the end of May. English rivals are favored to meet there after first leg results. Arsenal took care of business at home against Valencia last Thursday, while Chelsea secured a draw and scored a road goal against Eintracht Frankfurt. A clash between those two heavyweights with a Champions league spot on line would be must see entertainment and cap off a fantastic year in English soccer.
Europa League Semifinals Betting Odds at BookMaker.eu
Chelsea FC -255
Eintracht Frankfurt +684
The Blues got the better of Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League tie last week. Luka Jovic opened the scoring for the hosts, but that was one of the few chances the German club had all night long. Chelsea had looked rattled for much of the first half, yet Pedro’s goal just before the halftime whistle led a resurgence in the second half. The last 45 minutes were all Chelsea, and it’s hard to see the Blues blowing it at home.
That being said, Eintracht have been in this situation before. They were in a precarious spot in the Round of 16 after a 0-0 home draw in the first leg of their tie with Inter Milan, but they won 1-0 in Milan to move on.
Eintracht will also have at least one of their key players back in the lineup. Ante Rebic has paired well up top with Jovic, and he will return after a suspension in the first leg. Sebastien Haller could be back in action too after an injury kept him out of last Thursday’s tilt.
Chelsea will have an even more important addition available for all 90 minutes in the second leg. Eden Hazard only played the final 30 minutes in Frankfurt last Thursday night, and Chelsea will have much more creativity from the outset with Hazard available. He received some much needed rest, which will give the Blues more of a bite on the attack.
The visitors aren’t completely out of it, but for Eintracht to advance, they will need an excellent performance out of Jovic on Thursday. Jovic has scored 26 goals in all competitions with Eintracht Frankfurt this season.
Prediction: Chelsea 3, Eintracht Frankfurt 1
Valencia CF -114
Arsenal FC +292
Things looked great for Valencia through the first 15 minutes of the first leg of the Europa League Semifinals. Mouctar Diakhaby opened the scoring in the 11th minute, and Valencia were constantly threating Arsenal’s goal. However, the Gunners turned the game on its head in the 18th minute with a breakaway goal from Alexandre Lacazette. That emboldened the hosts, and Lacazette added another seven minutes later. They scored a huge insurance goal late too to give them a big edge coming into the second leg. Arsenal withstood an early second half charge from Valencia and then grabbed a two goal advantage when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored in the 90th minute.
Arsenal are not out of the woods yet. The Gunners have been very shaky in the back line throughout this campaign, and Valencia had their fair share of opportunities in the first leg. None of their defenders have been very consistent, and Granit Xhaka has been an occasional nightmare.
Xhaka cost Arsenal a chance to move within a point of Tottenham in the Premier League over the weekend with an awful takedown in the box that led to a penalty kick. There was no reason for Xhaka to reach out and take down Solly March, but he did, and that cost Arsenal three points. The Swiss international adds steel in the midfield, but he loses his composure far too often and commits a number of senseless fouls that mitigate his impact.
I think Valencia will get the win, but it won’t be enough to qualify ahead of Arsenal. Aubameyang’s goal will loom large.
Prediction: Valencia 2, Arsenal 1
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