Europa League Final Preview
With tomorrow being the day of the Europa League Final in Turin, Italy, many English fans are getting their maps ready to find the Juventus Stadium which is the host venue of the final between English sides Newcastle United and Chelsea. With Newcastle having the chance to win the trophy for the first time since 1969, they will be playing their hearts out to get a result in the match, and win their second trophy under Alan Shearer. Chelsea, on the other hand, who won the trophy in 2012, will be looking to add another to their list, to make up for the disappointment of failing to qualify for the Champions League last season. With both teams so close in their domestic league, pundits are predicting a very close game. So let's open your eyes a bit more as to both teams chances tomorrow, we'll give you an overview of how the teams got to this stage.
Chelsea began their campaign in the Europa League Playoff. They were drawn against Italian side Bologna. The first leg saw the London side win 3-0, thanks to goals from Juan Mata, Oscar and John Obi Mikel. The return leg in Italy was not as successful and ended in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea's goals coming through Polish striker Robert Lewandowski and center back John Terry.
Then came the Group Stage. Chelsea were drawn against French side AS Monaco, Austrian team Red Bull Salzburg and Dutch club Feyenoord. Chelsea managed to win five of their six matches, drawing one with Red Bull Salzburg. They scored an impressive 18 goals, and conceded just 6. They won the group by four points with AS Monaco qualifying in second place.
They faced an easier challenge in the 1st Knockout Round with a tie against Ukrainian side Karpaty Lviv, with the first leg in Ukraine. They couldn't take their chances and the match ended up 0-0. The return leg in London was different, however, as Chelsea won 3-0 with the goals coming from Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Robert Lewandowski. A 3-0 aggregate score meant that Chelsea qualified for the 2nd Knockout Round.
The Second Knockout Round drew Chelsea against Club Brugge K.V.. The first leg was held in Belgium, where Chelsea earned a 1-1 draw and took a crucial away goal into the second leg. Their goal came from Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, but they were without Brazilian Ramires for the second leg, after he was sent off. The second leg result was very comfortable for Chelsea but they had to respond well to a first half goal from their former striker Eiður Guðjohnsen. After the goal was scored, Chelsea responded excellently, scoring three before half time and one after the break to win the leg 4-1 and the tie 5-2, therefore progressing to the Quarter Final.
Sporting Lisbon, who had qualified along with Newcastle from the Group K, were Chelsea's next opposition. The first leg was held at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea comfortably winning 2-0, thanks to goals from 'wonderkid' Marco Van Ginkel and Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard. In the return leg in Portugal, an early goal from Robert Lewandowski looked to have Chelsea easily on their way to the Semis. However, two quick goals from Sporting Lisbon put them 2-1 up before half time and giving Chelsea a scare. Oscar equalized before Sporting Lisbon player Valentín Viola rounded off his hat-trick. A slight scare for Chelsea, but they managed to win the tie by 4 goals to 3 on aggregate, sealing a place in the last four.
The Semi Final saw Chelsea take on Russian club Zenit St Petersburg - Chelsea coach Luciano Spalleti would face his former club for the first time since leaving them. The first leg was to be held in England. The match went exactly to plan for Chelsea, who won the tie 3-0, the goalscorers Oscar, Lewandowski and Hazard. The second leg. Yet another scare for Chelsea. Zenit were 3-0 up with just 30 minutes on the clock. Chelsea managed to pull two back before half time, before Hulk scored his second of the game to make the score 4-2. Chelsea had reached the Final, with the aggregate score being 5-4.
They will hope that they can put these minor scares behind them as they look to win tomorrows Final against Newcastle.
Chelsea's Star Player
Robert Lewandowski has been in good form for Chelsea since joining, scoring exactly 50 league goals in two seasons for the club. He won the Golden Boot award in his first season and can also create goals.
Newcastle began their journey one stage behind Chelsea, in the Third Qualifying Round with a tie against Scottish side Motherwell. The first leg saw Newcastle make the trip to Scotland. The tie was more comfortable than they expected, with a hat-trick from Alessandro Matri and a single goal from Nicolás Gaitán. The home leg saw them win comfortably again with another goal from Matri being the highlight of the match, in which they won 3-1 with the other goals coming from Gabby Agbonlahor and Tom Cleverley. This saw them through to the stage where Chelsea started - the Europa League Playoff.
They were drawn against Polish side Legia Warszawa, with the first leg at St James's Park. Newcastle won comfortably by 2-0 after goals by Moussa Sissoko and Italian center back Davide Astori. The next leg saw them travel abroad for the first time in the competition as they headed to Poland's capital Warsaw. They managed to win the away tie 1-0 after another goal from Astori. This saw them into the Group Stage.
Newcastle were drawn against Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, Belgian club RC Genk and Georgian minnows Dinamo Tbilisi. They managed to pick up maximum points by winning all six games picking up 18 points. They scored 14 goals and conceded just 4, winning the group by nine points, with Sporting Lisbon qualifying alongside them.
The 1st Knockout Round drew them against AS Monaco, who finished runners-up in the same group as Chelsea. The first leg was to be held in France. Ex-Newcastle striker Papiss Cissé scored a goal for Monaco as they won 3-1, with Nicolás Gaitán scoring Newcastle's goal. The second leg in the north of England was a great turnaround for Newcastle. 2-0 up before half time, Newcastle would be going into the next round on away goals. However, Gaitán made it 3-0 after half time. However the game was not over. With 5 minutes to go, Monaco striker Falcao struck the ball into the net, taking the game to extra time. With five minutes to go in extra time, Alessandro Matri silenced the traveling fans by slashing their dreams by making it 4-1. They progressed to the next round, with the final aggregate score being 5-4.
The 2nd Knockout Round put Newcastle against Turkish side Galatasary. They visited Turkey for the first leg. After half time, Newcastle were one goal up when French midfielder Moussa Sissoko scored. Under ten minutes to go and ex-Chelsea legend Didier Drogba equalized. However Newcastle were happy to have scored an away goal. The return leg at St James's Park. Three second half goals from Tom Cleverley, Nicolás Gaitán and Gabby Agbonlahor ensured that Newcastle reached the Quarter Finals in style, with the aggregate scoreline being 4-1.
The Quarter Final saw Newcastle face an English team in the form of London club Arsenal. The first leg was held at St James's Park, where Newcastle pulled off a shock. An early goal from Alessandro Matri got The Magpies' off to a flyer before two second half goals from Fabricio Coloccini and Gabby Agbonlahor finished Arsenal off. Arsenal had a lot to do if they were to turn around the tie and it seemed they were down and out when Moussa Sissoko scored another goal in the return leg. Cheick Tioté was sent off, but Alessandro Matri doubled the lead one minute afterwards. Arsenal clawed two goals back but Sissoko scored another five minutes from time, making the aggregate score 6-2 to Newcastle.
In the Semi Final that followed, Newcastle faced their biggest challenge yet, as they faced Spanish side Atlético Madrid, with the first leg in the Spanish capital. Atlético Madrid scored the only tie of the leg when youngster Koke put the ball into the net. Deep into injury time, Madrid forward Diego Costa was sent off for an elbow on Fabricio Coloccini. Newcastle had to overturn a tie for the first time in the competition if they were to reach the final. In the leg that followed, Alessandro Matri was the hero, scoring one goal either side of the half time break to see The Magpies' through to play against fellow English side Chelsea in the Final.
Newcastle's Star Player
The Toon defender Davide Astori, who is the vice-captain of the club will be considered key to Newcastle's chances, with Alessandro Matri out with injury. Astori has been brilliant for Newcastle since joining last season and has made the World Team Of The Year whilst playing in the heart of their defence.