Barcelona will host German side Frankfurt in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals at the Camp Nou on 15th April. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw for both sides.
It wouldn’t have been exactly surprising to see one of Barcelona’s famed attacking players score the half volley that Ansgar Knauff netted for Frankfurt in the first leg in Germany. Bringing the ball down with composure at the edge of the penalty area, he unleashed a superb right-footed strike with the outside of his boot to get Frankfurt ahead in the tie with 48 minutes on the clock.
Frankfurt have had their fair share of struggles in the attacking end of the pitch this season. However, reduced to 10 men for the final quarter, Frankfurt played extremely well and could have even scored more on the night. Barcelona lacked the usual ruthlessness in attack and there were also suggestions that the grass was too long at the Deutsche Bank Stadium, which hindered Barcelona’s natural style of quick passing.
Xavi’s side also appears to lack steam after returning from the international break and being held 1-1 by Frankfurt isn’t the result that they would have envisioned in the first leg. The Catalans were also on the brink of dropping points against lowly Levante in La Liga, before Luuk de Jong saved the match with a stoppage-time header to make it 3-2 on the night for Barcelona.
Barcelona had decided to rotate players for the first leg and it was only when Frenkie De Jong and Ousmane Dembele were substituted into the game in the second half that they looked more comfortable on the ball. Both the players had an immediate effect and combined at the edge of the box with Ferran Torres who restored parity for Barcelona in the tie.
Barcelona are now unbeaten in the last 15 matches across all competitions, which is a stark contrast to the nightmare of a start they had under Ronald Koeman earlier this season. The Catalans have now climbed to the second position in La Liga and trail league leaders Real Madrid by 12 points, even though they have a game in hand. Barcelona also haven’t been defeated since being demoted to the Europa League from the Champions League.
They have also been defeated only once in the last six European ties when they avoided defeat in the first leg. All signs point towards how Frankfurt might end up regretting their missed opportunities from the first leg.
Barcelona are also welcoming Frankfurt to their own stadium, where they have kept four clean sheets on the bounce since the 1-1 draw with Napoli in the last 32 stages of the competition way back in February. Barcelona are poised to register the first Europa League win at the Camp Nou since 2004.
It was almost a sense of déjà vu for Frankfurt, who were also held to a 1-1 draw at their home stadium in the last 16 round of the Europa League by Spanish opposition Real Betis. The German side eventually went on to win the second leg 2-1 and progress further in the tie. However, seeing their streak of seven unbeaten matches in all competitions come to an end at the weekend was far from an ideal preparation before their trip to Spain.
Eintracht Frankfurt had a dismal first half against Freiburg in Bundesliga. What’s worse than going 1-0 down is the fact that they lost midfield enforcer Djibril Sow to injury. While Philip Kostic did respond to Vincenzo Grifo’s opener in the second half, Nils Petersen scored once again to get the job done for Freiburg in the 69th minute.
Oliver Glasner’s side haven’t won any of their last three matches in the domestic league and are facing an uphill struggle to qualify for European football next season. They are ninth in Bundesliga with 39 points and are five points adrift of the continental spots in the table.
Most of the matches in the recent winless run have arrived at the Deutsche Bank Park and Frankfurt have been far from clinical in front of goal. However, they are not strangers to carving their way through the Barcelona backline and will be expecting goals in the second leg. The Europa League quarter-final second leg will be their first ever trip to the Camp Nou for a competitive game. While they do have a nine-match unbeaten run against Spanish side, Barcelona have also only lost twice at home in the last 16 meetings with clubs from the Bundesliga.
BAR vs FRK, UEFA Europa League 2021/22
Date: 15th April, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Barcelona Europa League form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Eintracht Frankfurt Europa League form:
Eintracht Frankfurt form (all competitions):
Barcelona wins: 0
Eintracht Frankfurt: 0
Barcelona Team News: The arrival of Xavi has also heralded a change in medical staff which has brought welcome results for Barcelona. Once prone to muscle injuries at the start of the season, Barcelona have little in the way of fresh injury concerns. In fact, star forward Ansu Fati has returned to training this week, although he is still some weeks of returning to the pitch.
Gerard Pique suffered an adductor problem in the first leg against Frankfurt but he has been included in the squad. It remains to be seen whether he receives minutes in this game after just recovering from the injury. Sergino Dest has also received the medical green light and will be available for selection although Xavi is unlikely to take the risk of playing him from the start. Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti are out of contention as they are still dealing with their long-term injury problems.
Luuk De Jong will be available after missing the previous leg due to COVID-19. He became Barcelona’s saviour this weekend with a wonderful stoppage-time header. Memphis Depay has also returned to training and his thigh issue will be assessed before taking a final call. Dani Alves hasn’t been registered for the Europa League.
Eintracht Frankfurt Team News: Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner will have to shuffle things in midfield after Tuta was sent off in the first leg after accumulating two yellow card offences. Makoto Hasebe is expected to slot into the back three.
While Djibril Sow was injured in the weekend match against Freiburg, Glasner is hopeful that he will be able to play some part in the fixture. If he cannot make it, then Sebastian Rode is expected to partner Kristijan Jakic in the base of midfield.
Sow will find company in the treatment room as Christopher Lenz and Diant Ramaj are also ruled out. Daichi Kamada is the primary creative force for the side and will hope to regain his place in the starting XI.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Araujo, Lenglet, Eric Garcia, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, Frenkie De Jong; Ousmane Dembele, Aubameyang, Ferran Torres
Eintracht Frankfurt possible starting lineup:
Trapp; Hasebe, Hinteregger, Ndicka; Knauff, Rode, Jakic, Kostic; Lindstrom, Kamada; Borre
Barcelona’s performances since the return from international break have been a little underwhelming compared to their gargantuan run of form prior to it. The Catalan side have lacked intensity and ruthlessness but a return to Camp Nou should spark them to life. They are still the favourites to win this round and the conditions at the Camp Nou will suit their passing style and quick movements better.
A brittle defense on paper will be the only cause of concern for Xavi. However, Frankfurt will have a mountain to climb if they wish to upset Barcelona in front of their own fans.