This is a big game, not as much for Chelsea, who have won this competition before and will always have their sights set on the Champions League instead, but for Maurizio Sarri, who will see this as key to defining his Chelsea legacy. As opposed to their opponents Arsenal who need to win in order to get into next season’s Champions League, so the pressure is probably more on The Gunners heading into the final in Baku. You can get the best odds on the final over at bonuscodelots today as both London sides hope to lift the silverware.
But that doesn’t mean Chelsea can afford to take their foot off the gas in any way, this is still an important game for them, and they’ll need to be at the top of their game if they’re to overcome an Arsenal side that blitzed their way into the final with an impressive win over Valencia in the semis.
So with reports coming out that key midfielder N’Golo Kante is set to miss the final having picked up a knee injury, Chelsea were dealt a huge blow in their chances of winning their first European silverware since 2013. Kante has been a huge part of the way Chelsea have set up this season, pushing a bit further forward than he was under Antonio Conte, he’s still managed to shield the Chelsea defence incredibly well this season. So if he is indeed set to miss the final in Baku, who will replace him?
For me, the perfect man to replace the Frenchman in the midfield is Ross Barkley.
Whilst he’s clearly very good going forward, he certainly has the energy levels to fill the role that Kante is going to leave in that midfield should he not be fit for the final. Now whilst Ross Barkley is mainly seen as an attacking threat, he also possesses enough in his arsenal to be an excellent replacement for the Frenchman in central midfield.
He’s physical and whilst he may not be the best tackler in the world, averaging only one a game in the Premier League this season, he certainly has the energy to run around make a nuisance of himself and disrupt play. And then when he wins the ball back, he can use that energy and physicality to burst through an Arsenal midfield that isn’t exactly known for its pace. He may have to transform himself into 2013/14 era Yaya Toure to do it, but if there’s one man in the Chelsea squad that can do it, it’s him. Barkley could be a good outside bet for man-of-the-match on this website if he gets the call.
Perhaps seen as a bit of a forgotten man at Stamford Bridge, forcing his value down to just over £25m on Transfermarkt, now is the perfect time for him to be thrust back into the limelight and produce the kind of performance that got him the move from Everton in the first place. If he can be the key man to winning this game for Chelsea, then perhaps he’ll finally earn his place as a hero at Stamford Bridge and maybe even become the main man next season.