May 10 – Whether or not it is healthy for the European game remains highly questionable but English clubs have made history by taking all four spots in the finals of UEFA’s two major competitions, the first time this has happened anywhere on the Continent.
After Liverpool and Tottenham advanced to the Champions League final, Arsenal and Chelsea made it through to the Europa League final on Thursday with semifinal wins over Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively.
While the Champions League final in Madrid on May 31 is already proving hugely problematic travel-wise for Tottenham fans who played their semifinal 24 hours after Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal supporters have to find a way of getting to Baku, almost 2,500 miles away, for their final three days earlier.
Arsenal’s 4-2 win in Valencia gave them a 7-3 aggregate victory in their semi-final and, more crucially, one final chance to gain a spot in next season’s Champions League.
London rivals Chelsea stand in their way but were fortunate to survive on home soil against Eintracht. The Germans proved far more dangerous in a 1-1 draw, the same scoreline as the first leg. The game was ultimately settled by penalties after extra time though it is doubtful whether even victory in the final will save the job of Chelsea’s under-fire manager Maurizio Sarri even though a top-four Premier League finish has already been secured.
Either way, the clash between the two rivals in Azerbaijan’s capital should be a perfect appetizer for the main course featuring Liverpool and Spurs at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium .
Baku’s Olympic Stadium has a capacity of 68,700 but UEFA has allocated only 6,000 tickets to each club, a decision Arsenal described as “disappointing”, adding that it presents them with “extreme difficulties”
As for fans of Tottenham and Liverpool, direct flights from the UK have reached £1,300 with some airlines accused of profiteering and supporters having to find alternative ways of getting to Madrid.
There have only been two all-English finals before, with Tottenham beating Wolves in the 1971-72 UEFA Cup and Manchester United overcoming Chelsea in the 2007-08 Champions League.
Meanwhile UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin hailed the “glorious unpredictability” of football after both Liverpool and Tottenham overcame three-goal deficits.
“The fantastic matches in Liverpool and Amsterdam gave ample proof of the game’s glorious unpredictability,” Ceferin said in a statement. “Liverpool and Tottenham deserve the highest praise for the way in which they overcame three-goal aggregate deficits and fought back against the odds.
“The two teams’ achievements showed that anything is possible in our beautiful game… The two matches were marvellous advertisements for the calibre and appeal of the UEFA Champions League.”
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