Adi Hütter’s men delivered again on the big stage on Thursday. And with the Europa League field looking as open as ever, do Frankfurt really have a chance to take the trophy? The evidence certainly seems to suggest so.
Eintracht Frankfurt might not have won their first leg in Ukraine against the 10 men of Shakhtar Donetsk, but they came away with two away goals and an excellent chance of progressing. This Frankfurt side really is the most likely German team to hold a European trophy aloft come the end of the season.
Frankfurt have the joint-best record in the competition this term – matched only by Chelsea. Given Frankfurt’s group included Serie A outfit Lazio and last year’s runners-up Marseille, it’s the Bundesliga side who have in fact looked the best of all. Six wins from six in the groups, thanks to 17 goals – the second most of all teams in the group stage – and just five conceded saw them storm into the knockouts.
In Shakhtar, Frankfurt faced a side who fell from the Champions League group stages and, while the frustration over not getting a victory against a side who played with 10 men for most of the game is obvious, the performance is simply further evidence of Frankfurt’s remarkable run of form.
From an improved goalkeeper to an underrated head coach delivering in his first year, there is more to this Frankfurt side than perhaps they are given credit for. The defensive unit is short on stars but big on discipline, and then there’s the front three. Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic have combined for over 70 percent of the team’s goals this season and look as in-form a trio as any in Europe.
Despite losing Kevin-Prince Boateng, Marius Wolf, Omar Mascarell and Lukas Hradecky from their famous German Cup final victory last season, this side has retained enough cup-winning DNA to progress. It is worth noting that the year before, a vastly different Frankfurt side also made the cup final. This club understands what it is to make finals, and their fans play a part too. Nearly 3,000 made the trip to Ukraine to support the team and those on the terraces have been a factor that has undoubtedly added to the team’s performances over the years.
Despite having the same points as Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, a similarly good chance of progressing in the Europa League and their own gifted attacking trident, Leverkusen do not look like they have a chance to win the Europa League. Their goalless draw against Krasnodar hardly sparks confidence, and keeps the concern that this team lacks balance lingering.
With Dortmund having paid a heavy price for their inability to adapt to injuries on Wednesday and Bayern Munich facing a Liverpool side who appear superior, the Eagles look the best hope of a Bundesliga club lifting a first European trophy since 2013.
That is not to say it’ll be an easy ride. Chelsea, Napoli, Arsenal, Inter Milan and, of course, Sevilla are all teams who could be victorious in Baku. But so could Eintracht Frankfurt.