Wins for Chelsea and Arsenal on Thursday ensured that four Premier League clubs will have major European finals at the back of their minds in Gameweek 38.
We have examined the two matches to see if their exertions in the semi-finals of the Europa League and further commitments could potentially hand advantages to Leicester and Burnley respectively.
Also, the post-match press conferences for both clubs acted as the media commitments for those Gameweek 38 matches, so we have also included any pertinent information from those.
Chelsea 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (2-2 on aggregate, Chelsea win on penalties)
Goals: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£5.2m)
Assists: Eden Hazard (£11.0m)
Owners of Jamie Vardy (£9.0m) will be pleased both by the fact that Chelsea were forced all the way to extra-time and penalties on Thursday night, as well as Maurizio Sarri’s comments after the game. After the physical exertion of 120 minutes and the emotion of the occasion, it is clear the Blues will not be as ready for Sunday as Brendan Rodgers’ fresh and rested Leicester side. Sarri himself admitted that his side was very tired will not have been able to recover 100% by the start of Gameweek 38. He also hinted that there could be rests for some key players, which would further play into the Foxes’ hands.
“We were not able to score the second goal in the first half and were in trouble in the first part of the second half. We did better after that and, in extra-time, we were really very tired. Also, the opponents were very tired. I think it was a wonderful match.” – Maurizio Sarri
“It’s not easy for an English team to arrive in the last month in a very good condition, physically, because here we play more than in the other countries. We played the match No61 today. In Italy you can play 50/52 matches, but it’s a big difference. 10 matches of difference is a big difference. Two and a half months without training, so a big difference.” – Maurizio Sarri
“For sure, it will be very difficult for Sunday, I think. But we need to consider that our best match, in my opinion, was here in Stamford Bridge against Tottenham, three days after 120 minutes in the cup final against Manchester City. Of course, now it’s more difficult, I think. We played 61 matches, so it’s very difficult. We need to rest, of course. It will be a very difficult match, physically but also mentally. Especially mentally. Physically we can recover. No 100%, but we can recover.” – Maurizio Sarri
It was fitting that Eden Hazard (£11.0m) scored the winning penalty for Chelsea with what could prove to be his final touch for the club at Stamford Bridge. Once again, he was involved in attacking returns in open play providing the assist for Ruben Loftus-Cheek‘s (£5.2m) first-half goal. However, we should remember, as we highlighted recently, that Belgian is without a goal on his travels in the Premier League. Let’s not also forget that he could be one of the players Sarri manages the minutes of considering the top-four is already secured for Chelsea and there is the Europa League final to look forward to.
Despite Loftus-Cheek’s impressive displays of late, following two goals and two assists in his last four domestic home matches with another Stamford Bridge strike on Thursday, he may not play a part in Gameweek 38. He was removed from the field in the closing stages of normal time with a muscle injury and unfortunately, Sarri did not provide much of an update after the game.
There was also a further boost for those looking at Vardy for Gameweek 38 as Andreas Christensen (£5.0m) was forced off in the 74th minute. With Antonio Rüdiger (£5.9m) ruled out for the rest of the season, Sarri will have limited options at centre-back and may have to make changes when he takes his Chelsea side to Leicester. Gary Cahill (£5.0m) could come in for one last start, although the solution Sarri used on Thursday night was the bring Davide Zappacosta (£5.0m) at right-back and slide Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.4m) into the centre-back role.
“We lost [Andreas] Christensen, we lost [Ruben] Loftus-Cheek. We started the match with three injuries, two injuries during the match. Not a serious problem [with Loftus-Cheek], he had the usual cramp after 75 minutes.” – Maurizio Sarri
It is worth saying though that Chelsea still defended admirably even after being forced into changes. Sarri admitted that he wanted to play a tighter game in the closing stages as he was confident his team would not get the next goal and did not want to leave Chelsea exposed to a good counter-attacking team by trying to push for it. With his team tired from Thursday night, the Italian could set up in a similar fashion given Leicester’s strengths on the counter. That period featured some impressive goal-line clearances from substitute Zappacosta and David Luiz (£5.8m).
“It was clear we were not able to score the second goal in the first half, the match was difficult. Also because, if you are not very, very compact on the pitch, they are dangerous. In an open match, they become really very dangerous. Or you are able to take control of the match for 90 minutes, to stay high and play in the opposing half, otherwise they are very, very dangerous.” – Maurizio Sarri
Perhaps the only other concern for Vardy owners, even if he does have a formidable record at home of late, will be penalties. The Englishman has missed only one spot-kick this season but on Sunday will be facing a man who got plenty of practice under pressure on Thursday in Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m). The Chelsea goalkeeper was one of the heroes of the shoot-out as he saved two of Frankfurts’ penalties, from Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Emerson, D Luiz, Christensen (Zappacosta 74′), Azpilicueta; Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 86′), Jorginho, Kovacic; Hazard, Giroud (Higuaín 96′), Willian (Pedro 62′).
Valencia 2-4 Arsenal (3-7 on aggregate)
Goals: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang x3 (£10.8m), Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m)
Assists: Lacazette, Lucas Torreira (£4.7m), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£6.6m)
Predicting Unai Emery’s team for the Gameweek 38 trip to Burnley should prove to be harder than ever after their Europa League exploits on Thursday night. Despite travelling to Valencia with a 3-1 aggregate lead, Unai Emery deployed the strongest team possible, including a front-pairing of both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.4m).
The two have started the last two league games in a row alongside each other, despite Emery balancing domestic competitions with the Europa League so in that sense, both of them could line-up at Turf Moor on Sunday. However, with top four an extremely unlikely target for Arsenal now, winning the Europa League is the only realistic route into the Champions League for 2019/20, as well as a real possibility to win a trophy. For that reason, it would not be too surprising if several key players were rested or had their minutes managed in a game which is effectively a dead rubber. The Europa League final is admittedly 19 days away but given the short turnaround between the trips to Spain and Lancashire, Emery may want to avoid any unnecessary injuries as a result of over-exertion.
“We have two possibilities to qualify. One we lost. The second is the Europa League here. Our objective is to go to the Champions League but also it is one title. I think matches like today with this atmosphere are amazing. Every player, every club wants to play in it.” – Unai Emery
“We lost the chance to be in the top four on Sunday. We know it was going to be difficult but we took the possibility. We were strong in our minds to prepare, in our focus and to work hard. We can be proud of the players. our supporters here today with us. It’s not finished yet. It’s one step more to play the final. We are happy but also it’s continuing to be difficult to win.” – Unai Emery
Despite producing some fairly abject performances on the road in the Premier League this season, Arsenal may take heart for 2019/20 from securing this result at the home of Valencia. On Thursday night, the Spanish side lost for only the second time in 22 matches in front of their own supports (won 15, drawn five) and conceded four goals there for the first and only time this season. Replicating displays like this one would certainly help Arsenal improve on their away record during this Premier League campaign, which has so far seen more defeats than wins and a negative goal difference.
“Not one team has scored four against Valencia and only one time Atletico Madrid scored three goals and we did that last week. Valencia are a very good team. A very difficult team and we showed in these moments we can do that.” – Unai Emery
Part of Arsenal’s control of the fixture stemmed from one of the best link-ups between Aubameyang and Lacazette all season. The Gabonese international netted a hat-trick, while the Frenchman got a goal of his own as well as an assist. It is nights like this that suggest that the two strikers are now displaying an understanding that warrants starting both of them regularly in the Premier League in 2019/20.
“Yes, they are very good strikers. I am proud of them, how they work defensively. We need big players today. When their commitment is like today, defensively also working to help us it’s amazing. And after their attacking moments was coming. I think all our players did perfect.” – Unai Emery
“We have talked a lot about our relationship and it is a pleasure to play with him, above all when you win games like this.” – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal conceded twice but to some extent there was no shame in the goals they allowed. It should come as no surprise that Kevin Gameiro got them both as he has been in incredible form at the Mestalla Stadium in the Europa League this season, finishing the campaign with 11 goals in 12 starts there in that competition.
After letting in the second, Arsenal began to control the game and manage their hosts with the maturity that we have seen with increasing regularity in European competitions under Emery this season. Right wing-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.4m), who also got an assist for one of Aubameyang’s goals, had Goncalo Guedes under wraps for most of the evening before the Portuguese winger was eventually substituted. In the end, Valencia had double the shots that Arsenal did but fewer on target.
Arsenal XI (3-4-1-2): Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Sokratis; Kolasinac (Mustafi 71′), Xhaka, Torreira (Guendouzi 80′), Maitland-Niles; Özil (Mkhitaryan 62′); Lacazette, Aubameyang.