Manuel Veth –
Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt – Thursday, May 9, 20:00BST/21:00CEST – Stamford Bridge, London, England
This weekend Chelsea more or less achieved their main objective of the season. The Blues defeated Watford 3-0 and leapfrogged Tottenham into third place in the English Premier League standings.
Now with just one game left Chelsea are four points clear of their city rivals Arsenal, who are on the verge of once again missing out on Champions League qualification. In fact, Arsenal’s only path back to the Champions League is the Europa League where they could meet Chelsea in the Europa League final.
Added motivation then for Chelsea to reach the final? After all, they could ruin their city-rivals chances of Champions League participation not once but twice this year.
It would be a bonus for sure. Chelsea managed Maurizio Sarri, however, was quick to point out this week that it will not matter, who Chelsea face in the final. “I want the final against any team, Arsenal or Valencia. I want the final and this time I don’t want to just play the final — I want to win.”
Chelsea have to get their first. Dominant throughout large stretches of the first leg Chelsea will be massive favourites in the second leg after a 1-1 draw at Frankfurt’s Waldstadion last Thursday.
Furthermore, the Blues will have noticed Frankfurt’s shocking performance against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. The Eagles conceded six goals in just 36 minutes to lose 6-1 to Bayer Leverkusen on matchday 32 of the Bundesliga. It was a disastrous performance and Frankfurt’s fourth game without a win in the league.
Head coach Adi Hütter, however, was quick to dismiss Frankfurt’s European campaign as the reason for the lack of form lately. “There are no excuses! It was an important game for us, perhaps the most important this season. We know have to bite our teeth and mobilise all our strength,” the head coach said following the game against Bayer.
The result on Sunday means that Frankfurt are now under pressure in the race for Champions League qualification. The club remains in fourth place in the Bundesliga, but only the better goal difference separates Frankfurt from fifth place Bayer Leverkusen and the Eagles still have a difficult derby against Mainz at home and an away trip to Bayern, who might have to win the game to secure the title.
Hence, the Europa League could be a massive back door to the Champions League. But first, the Eagles need to get past hugely favoured Chelsea. “It is a difficult task, but we will manage,” defender Makoto Hasebe told the media this week. “After we drew Inter Milan 0-0 many believed that we couldn’t win there,” Hütter added. Frankfurt won the return match 1-0 and advanced.
Chelsea are not Inter Milan, but Eintracht Frankfurt will be in much better form on Thursday than their performance against Bayer Leverkusen suggested. Furthermore, Ante Rebić’s return will be a big bonus, and there is even a sliver of hope that Sebastien Haller could be back for the return fixture. Hence, with everything to play for this could be a tight game that might go all the way.
Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt – Players to look out for:
Eden Hazard #10 – Chelsea
In the first leg, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri opted to leave Eden Hazard on the bench. The attacking midfielder, however, is one of the most productive players on the planet. Hazard’s ability to hold the ball and structure the play, in fact, caused numerous problems for Frankfurt in the first leg when he came on in the second half. With that performance in mind and the fact that Chelsea have now secured Champions League football expect Hazard to start against Frankfurt in the second leg.
Ante Rebić #4 – Eintracht Frankfurt
Ante Rebić will be back in Frankfurt’s squad after missing the first leg due to a suspension. His strength and ability to run behind the opponent’s defence could be a major factor and create room for striker Luka Jović, who was supposed to be rested against Leverkusen but came on in the 37′ minute when things were falling apart for Frankfurt. With Rebić up front, Frankfurt will be an entirely different opponent than it was the case in the first leg, and perhaps the Eagles can also welcome the return of Haller, which would complete the magic triangle up front.
Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt – Match Stats
- Chelsea have won 11 of their 13 matches in this UEFA Europa League campaign, drawing the other two.
- It has been an equally impressive campaign for Eintracht, who have lost just once in their 13 matches.
- Chelsea’s record in 20 matches against Bundesliga opposition is W10 D6 L4, the first victory coming in the 1997/98 European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Stuttgart (1-0).
- The Blues have never lost at home to German visitors, winning six of the eight fixtures, all of which have been in the UEFA Champions League over the past 20 years.
- Eintracht had never faced Chelsea prior to the first leg but have been involved in three previous two-legged UEFA competition ties against English clubs and lost them all, suffering away defeats on each occasion.
- Frankfurt have faced English opposition just once in between that tie and this one, a 0-0 home draw against Newcastle United in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt – 1-1 (4-5 after penalties)
Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt – Lineups
Kepa – Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Emerson – Kanté, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek – Pedro, Giroud, Hazard
Head Coach: Maurizio Sarri
Trapp – Hinteregger, Hasebe, Abraham – Rode – Kostić, Willems, Fernandes, da Costa – Jović, Rebić
Head Coach: Adi Hütter
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.