In Brief

Europa League final: Arsenal distracted by Unai Emery Barcelona rumours

Gunners boss is a candidate to replace Ernesto Valverde at the Camp Nou

Uefa Europa League final: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

Arsenal’s preparations for the Uefa Europa League final against Chelsea in Baku have received an unwelcome distraction with reports that Unai Emery is being lined up to replace Ernesto Valverde as head coach of Barcelona.

The Catalan club may have won La Liga but their humiliating exit from the Champions League at the hands of Liverpool and the 2-1 defeat against Valencia in the Copa del Rey final has apparently led the Barcelona board to conclude that a new man is required at the helm.

The Sun is one of several papers to report that a four-man shortlist has been drawn up as Barcelona look to replace Valverde.

The principal source for the story is Spanish paper Mundo Deportivo, which states that Emery, Ronald Koeman, Massimiliano Allegri and Roberto Martinez are the names on the list.

High regard

It’s claimed that the Gunners boss is “held in high esteem” by the Barcelona board, and that regard is likely to rise further still should Arsenal beat Chelsea.

It would be Emery’s fourth Europa League triumph, having won three with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016, and Barcelona believe that Emery is now ready to manage a club like theirs. 

A special moment

The Arsenal manager made no comment on the rumours when he spoke to Spanish paper El Mundo, reports Goal.com, concentrating totally on the mouthwatering clash against Chelsea in Baku, when the Gunners will try to win their first European trophy since 1994.

“In football, coaches, players and supporters want to play to feel a special moment,” he said. “And this is one special moment. Our focus is very clear for this match.” 

Hazard ahead

“We know Chelsea well, a team with quality and a high physical level,” said Emery, when asked about their opponents. And the Spaniard had no hesitation in pinpointing where he believes the greatest threat will come from.

“[Eden] Hazard is a player of moments, but decisive moments,” he said. “It is what we have to avoid. Chelsea is capable of winning thanks to him, and that ability I have only seen in [Lionel] Messi, Cristiano [Ronaldo], Neymar or [Mohamed] Salah.

“For me, he is in the quintet of the best in the world.”

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