It’s an all-English affair for the Europa League final this year, with Chelsea and Arsenal making a mammoth trek to Azerbaijan.
When is the Europa League final?
The game is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 29 May, with an 8pm kick-off time.
That may seem all perfectly normal, but for locals and supporters attending it is a pretty abnormal 11pm kick-off, meaning it may not finish until around 2am local time should penalties be required.
Where is the Europa League final?
The Baku Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan has the privilege of hosting the Europa League final this year. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s best to get familiar with it.
The stunning new stadium was only opened in 2015, boasts a 69,000 capacity and will also host three matches at Euro 2020 next summer.
The Azerbaijan national team are the stadium’s principal tenants, and it sits close to the shores of Lake Boyukshor, which translates literally as ‘Big Salty Waters’.
Baku itself is the lowest-lying capital in the world at 28 metres below sea level – and lies in the Caucasus region of Azerbaijan.
Can I go to the Europa League final?
Probably, but not if you’re a fan of either Arsenal or Chelsea. Staggeringly, only 6,000 tickets have been made available to both sets of fans despite the stadium holding nearly 70,000.
It hasn’t gone down well, with Arsenal boss Unai Emery saying: “I prefer to play closer to London because we’re two English teams and we could move a lot of fans with us.
“I don’t know why UEFA has decided to play there. The stadium is going to be full, but not with our fans and Chelsea fans.”
Emery has a point. The sheer cost of the logistical struggles to get from London to Baku has left many fans simply unable to even consider making the trip.
In fact, even Gunners star Henrikh Mkhitaryan doesn’t know if he’ll be able to go. The delicate political situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan has made things ‘complicated’ apparently.
So, all in all, probably not the best venue in the world for this particular fixture.
So, where can I watch the Europa League final on TV?
There is no simple answer for this, as it largely depends on where you live in the world. However, for a quick summary of broadcasters by country…
UK/Ireland – BT Sport
Australia – Optus Sport
United States – Univision, TNT
United Arab Emirates – beIN Sports
Canada – DAZN
What are the odds for the Europa League final?
The bookies most certainly fancy Chelsea to lift the trophy, although they are not overwhelming favourites by any means.
Here are a selection of odds from Bet365.
Chelsea to lift the trophy – 1/2
Arsenal to lift the trophy – 11/10
Game decided in extra time – 5/1
Game decided by penalty shootout – 11/2
Both teams to score – 3/4
What’s the weather like for the Europa League final?
It’s probably too early to say, but one thing you probably can expect is a bit of wind.
Baku’s nickname to its locals is ‘City of Wind’ and its official name is derived from the ancient Persian ‘Bādkube’, which translated literally means ‘pounding winds’.
Temperature-wise, Baku generally enjoys highs of around 25 degrees during the last week in May.
How did the teams get to the Europa League final?
Arsenal have already been to Azerbaijan in the Europa League this year after drawing Qarabag in the group stages. They won 3-0 that night as part of a comfortable group stage that also saw them face Vorskla Poltava and Sporting Lisbon.
BATE Borisov of the Ukraine were next and, despite losing the first leg 1-0, they easily turned it around at home in the second leg.
Stade Rennais of Ligue 1 and Napoli provided sterner tests but the Gunners were able to see them both off, before Valencia were dismantled in the semis.
Chelsea had a similar path, zigzagging all over Europe’s farthest outposts on Thursday nights without ever really looking stretched on the pitch itself.
PAOK Salonika, MOL Vidi and BATE Borisov were in the Blues’ group and only Vidi were able to take a point from them.
Malmo were up next before Dynamo Kiev were brushed aside, and then Slavia Prague gave Chelsea an almighty scare in the quarter-finals before finally falling just short.
The semi-finals were a real nail-biter too, with Chelsea needing penalties to see off Eintracht Frankfurt.
What are the rules for the Europa League final?
There’s nothing complicated about the rules for the final, with standard extra-time and penalties available should they be required.
VAR is also on hand and presumably ready to add its own brand of lunacy to the spectacle.
The winners will earn qualification for next season’s Champions League, so there is a lot at stake for Arsenal in particular. Chelsea are already there by virtue of their league position, and the Gunners can join them if they lift the Europa League trophy in Baku.