It was in the Europa League that Emerson Palmieri first started to really make his mark in Chelsea colours this season, and with the final now around the corner he has acknowledged the role the tournament has played in his development at Stamford Bridge.
Five of the Italian international’s first seven starts under Maurizio Sarri were in the Europa League, with one of the others, against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup, including his maiden Chelsea goal.
In Europe we eased into the knockout stages where Emerson again featured prominently, and such were the quality of his performances he and Marcos Alonso were sharing Premier League duties by the campaign’s end.
‘This type of competition helps you grow as a person and as a player,’ Emerson explains of his Europa League experiences.
‘It has been very important for me personally. I think I have managed to do really well. I have demonstrated I am mature enough to play at this level, in this type of competition.
‘I played in it once when I was at Roma but we couldn’t make it past the last 16. Now we have got the chance to play the final. I really hope we can bring it home, for me personally, my team-mates, the club and the fans.’
Emerson believes the level of opposition we have faced has risen as our Europa League adventure has gone on, culminating in two tricky assignments against Slavia Prague and Eintracht Frankfurt. The hard-fought victories in the quarters and semis have set us up nicely for next week’s final, he says, but it is still not comparable to any other match we have played this season.
‘It’s a derby and it’s a final, so we can’t calculate this like any game that we usually play,’ Emerson states. ‘I expect an Arsenal that will be very aggressive from the beginning because they didn’t manage to get into the top four.
‘We managed to get into the Champions League and to win the Europa League on top of that would make this year a dream come true. Let’s hope we can make it happen.
‘For me personally it would be immensely satisfying. I played a lot of the games and to win a tournament like this makes you feel an important player.’