BULUKU: Edgy moments for Arsenal, Chelsea fans ahead of big clash
The gods of football have spoken, the planets have aligned and the stars are about to collide in the most spectacular fashion imaginable. Azerbaijan is the arena, Baku the theatre and the Olympic Stadium the stage.
At exactly 10pm, Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny and Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta will head for the toss to kick-start a potentially-explosive clash that is surely, set to thrill millions of their followers from the backstreets of Eastern Europe to the rural villages of East Africa.
Without a doubt, it shall be gruelling and many stomachs of fans shall cramp with anticipation. This is a game that has come through fight-backs, injuries, player rebellions and lately, politics. It is the kind of show that compels players to summon their all for the sake of mankind, because football is life. It’s about the fans giving their all; shouting from the rooftop, hugging strangers, throwing a round at the bar, jumping in celebrations and blah… blah… blah…
Of course it is the anticipations that make football such an interesting sport that draws millions. In a twist of irony, it is Olivier Giroud, the former unsung hero of Arsenal who shall turn his rifles on the Gunners. Gooners are wary of him. The Frenchman is one of the two players who scored 10 goals in the Europa Cup this season. He has clearly shown his mettle in Europe and more should be expected of him.
It is true, if we lend credence to strong rumours that this may be the last game for Maurizio Sarri as he heads out of Chelsea to – rumours again – Juventus; and that this too may be the last match for Eden Hazard, then we are set for an even thrilling encounter. Arsenal, on the other hand, have all the need for this trophy and the lethal Pierre Aubumeyang-Alexander Lacazzette partnership upfront should frighten the Blues.
The chilling part of the encounter is the frustrating position that Arsenal’s Henrikh Mikhtaryan finds himself in. He has opted out of the game for fear that he may be targeted due to the political tensions between his native country Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has always been the view that football ought to be the bond that brings almost all humanity together regardless of their political, religious or cultural stand.
Anyway, there are situations where hate supersedes all that and triumphs over the beautiful game. We must respect his position since he knows better what really transpires in those climes. We are all human after all and we are still at war with racist taunts black players endure in some unspeakable parts of Europe.
At stake for Chelsea is another European trophy to add to the other five won since 1971. For Arsenal, making it a hat-trick of European trophies is very much secondary to the automatic qualifying spot to the 2019/20 Champions League Group stage that goes with winning the Europa League.
Chelsea have no such pressure having finished third in the Premier League. Arsenal were fifth, two points fewer than the Blues. Over the years, the two rivals have exchanged fire a billion times. The pampered Blues were shaky this season and only managed to twist themselves into third place courtesy of gaffes from other teams. On the other hand, one might say the Gunners are used to heartbreak but tonight it may be quite a jolt; a slap in the face if Chelsea claim the prize.
If the Gunners fall, they shall need lots of combinations and permutations just to poke their noses into the Champions League. It shall be like their last few matches of the past season when they seemed destined by the deities to be like Buridan’s ass – whose left and right turn met with severe blows. This time round they shall even break their fans’ brick hearts.