Two Eagles will lock horns against each other as Eintracht Frankfurt host SL Benfica in the 2nd leg of their quarter-final encounter in the UEFA Europa League.
Eintracht Frankfurt has been the only Bundesliga club to have performed well in Europe this campaign, having reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa League. Their road thus far has been a thrilling one as well, with the Eagles securing massive wins over Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk along the way.
On Thursday, however, they could be facing their biggest challenge as they host Benfica at the Commerzbank Arena. Benfica are coming on the back of a 4-2 lead in the first leg but the hosts, having scored two priceless away goals, will be through with a 2-0 win over the Portuguese giants.
Eintracht were one of the most in-form teams in Europe earlier this month but after suffering disappointing defeats at the hands of both Benfica and Augsburg, they will face a sizeable task of overcoming a two-goal deficit in order to advance to the next round.
As for Benfica, they are in an excellent scoring form, having netted four goals in each of their last three matches in all competitions. Their recent victory came against Vitoria Setubal, where Rafa Silva’s brace and goals from Haris Seferovic and Joao Felix led them to a 4-2 win over the Vitorianos.
And here at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the sides ahead of their highly anticipated encounter in the Europa League this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Frankfurt will miss out on the services of key defender Evan N’Dicka, who is suspended after picking up a red in the first leg. Gelson Fernandes, however, is an option, despite being sent off in the defeat to Augsburg at the weekend.
With N’Dicka missing out, we can expect veteran midfielder Makoto Hasebe to operate as a centre-back alongside David Abraham and Martin Hinteregger. These three defenders will need to be at their toes as Eintracht seek to avoid conceding any away goals.
Timothy Chandler is sidelined with a long-term injury, meaning Danny da Costa is a guaranteed starter on the right wing-back slot, with Filip Kostic likely to be deployed on the opposite flank.
Fernandes played in a slightly advanced role in the first leg but with Hasebe likely to feature in central defence, the Swiss international could revert to the holding midfield role at the base of Eintracht’s 3-1-4-2.
Sebastian Rode, on the other hand, will retain his place in central midfield and will be partnered by the industrious figure of Jonathan de Guzman.
And finally, in attack, Sebastien Haller remains a doubt, although it’s likely that he may feature against Benfica at some point later in the game. But, we expect Adi Hutter to deploy the offensive Ante Rebic and Luka Jovic, who will be keen to make an impression against his parent club.
Probable Lineup (3-1-4-2): Trapp; Abraham, Hasebe, Hinteregger; Fernandes; da Costa, de Guzman, Rode, Kostic; Jovic, Rebic.
Minimal defensive changes are expected from Benfica, who could once again stick to their trusted 4-2-3-1 setup. Andre Almeida and Alejandro Grimaldo have been the two ever-present figures in the Benfica backline this season and both of them will play a crucial role on the full-back slots this week.
Ruben Dias is also a guaranteed starter at the heart of Benfica’s four-man backline, though Ferro could make way for Jardel, who was rested in the game against Setubal on Saturday. The inclusion of the veteran defender could turn out to be the only defensive change for Benfica this week, with Odisseas Vlachodimos likely to retain his place in between the sticks.
Benfica coach Bruno Lage, could, however, make some notable alterations in midfield with players like Ljubomir Fejsa and Andreas Samaris likely to return at the base of the 4-2-3-1.
Pizzi, on the other hand, could make way for Rafa Silva in the right-wing slot while Franco Cervi will feature on the opposite flank. Gedson Fernandes will operate as the lone attacking midfielder, just in behind the central striker Joao Felix.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Vlachodimos; Almeida, Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo; Fejsa, Samaris; Silva, Fernandes, Cervi; Felix.
- This will only be the second-ever meeting between these two sides in European competitions.
- Benfica have lost their last four away matches in Germany with their win there coming against Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League back in 2013.
- Since losing the 2012-13 final against Chelsea, Benfica have lost just one of their 14 Europa League matches. Their only defeat came in their last away game in the competition against Dinamo Zagreb.
- Frankfurt have lost only one of their 19 home matches in major European competitions, a 2-1 defeat against Palermo in October 2006 in the UEFA Cup.
- Frankfurt have lost their last two matches in all competitions, as many as their previous 20 outings combined.
Player to Watch
Benfica’s attacking sensation Joao Felix’s hat-trick in the first leg made him the youngest Portuguese player to score a hat-trick in a major European match (19y, 152d), breaking the record of the legendary Eusebio (20y, 301d).
And the 19-year-old Portuguese wunderkind will once again be a scourge for the Frankfurt defenders as Benfica look to score the all-important away goals.
Felix’s ability to produce that defensive threading through pass coupled with his willingness to take on defenders is sure to cause problems for the Frankfurt defence. Therefore, it’s imperative that the Germans come up with a plan to minimize the threat provided by the youngster if they are to advance through to the next round this midweek.
Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 SL Benfica
Very few would bet against Eintracht Frankfurt considering the way they have played this season. But, overturning a two-goal deficit without conceding too many goals will surely be a challenge for a Frankfurt side, who are already missing out on the services of few of their star players. Thus, we expect a Benfica to bag this quarterfinal on aggregate.