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Olivier Giroud’s opponent from way back when and what will decide Europa League final

There is certainly no shortage of former team-mates Olivier Giroud will take on tonight if he is called upon to lead the attack against Arsenal, but there is one player he is likely to come up against directly with whom his past goes back further still.

A decade ago our centre-forward who spent five-and-a-half years as a Gunner before moving to Stamford Bridge in 2018 was still trying to make a name for himself in the French second division. He was playing at Tours, as was current Arsenal captain and central defender Laurent Koscielny.

Both careers went in an upward direction and now the two are set to play each other on a big European stage.

‘It is a great story and that is the beauty of football and it will be special to play against him obviously,’ said Giroud as he reflected upon their rise.

‘He is a good friend of mine. One of us will be sad unfortunately after the final but that is football and it is not going to affect our friendship.’

Injury kept Koscielny out of last summer’s World Cup but Giroud was his nation’s centre-forward as they won the tournament. It followed hard on the heels of an FA Cup success at Chelsea so tonight’s game offers the chance of a third trophy in just over a year.

The 32-year-old has stated what will be needed to be triumphant in Baku.

‘We need to play our best football basically,’ he said. ‘We need to be focused. Arsenal will be very hungry to win this title because they need it to be in the Champions League but it does not mean we want it less than them.

‘I have a lot of friends at Arsenal. It was five amazing years but now I am a Chelsea player and we really want to win this trophy so it is going to be an interesting game.

‘We know this team very well so it is 50-50 and the difference will be made by small details.’

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