Barcelona will travel to Germany to take on Frankfurt in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals at the Deutsche Bank Stadium on 8th April.
Eintracht Frankfurt had a topsy-turvy encounter in the previous round of the Europa League against Real Betis. They registered a 2-1 win in the first leg at the Estadio Benito Villamarin. However, despite the aggregate lead, the tie went into extra time when Borja Iglesias levelled proceedings with a goal in the 90th minute at the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt.
Despite conceding that late goal, Frankfurt didn’t drop their guards and there was more late drama left in the tie. Real Betis failed to deal with Filip Kostic’s excellent free-kick and a mix-up ensued in the box which resulted in Betis midfielder Guido Rodriguez scoring an own goal to send Frankfurt through in virtually the last minute of the tie.
While they have been favoured by the football Gods, that is certainly not the way how Oliver Glasner’s side would’ve envisioned progressing in the Europa League. What will make matters worse is their recent Bundesliga form doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. Eintracht Frankfurt played out two goalless draws with RB Leipzig and Greuther Furth most recently.
The stalemates helped Eintracht Frankfurt stretch their unbeaten run to six matches across all competitions. However, they have drawn all their last three matches and only one of their last seven matches at home have ended in a win for Frankfurt.
On a positive note, Eintracht Frankfurt haven’t lost a single match in the Europa League this season. They are also undefeated against Spanish opposition in Europe and have an eight-game unbeaten streak. However, their mettle will be tested like nothing else before as Barcelona are among the most in-form sides in Europe at the moment and have played some fantastic football lately.
It has been a whirlwind of a season for FC Barcelona and their fans. Shaken to the core by a debt to the tune of a whopping 1 billion euros and having lost the greatest player in their history, Lionel Messi, over the summer, Barcelona endured a torrid start to their domestic league campaign. At one point of the season, they were night and also suffered a rude shock when they were knocked out of their Champions League group by Bayern Munich and Benfica.
That is how they found themselves in the Europa League where they have done surprisingly well so far. There’s been a complete shift in culture and mentality at the Camp Nou under new head coach Xavi. Barcelona slammed four goals past Napoli at their own home in the Round of 32. They also edged past a formidable opponent in Galatasaray whose stadium can unnerve the biggest teams in Europe.
The Catalan giants put also four goals past Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Athletic Club, Osasuna and finally, their arch-rivals Real Madrid on their own home turf at the Santiago Bernabeu when it comes to domestic league dominance. This has allowed Barcelona to climb from ninth to second following the recent 1-0 victory against Sevilla at the Camp Nou last Sunday.
In their previous Europa League round, Barcelona saw their own goalkeeper (on loan at Galatasaray) Inaki Pena thwart their best efforts in the first leg at home. The Catalans also fell behind on aggregate when Galatasaray captain Marcao headed the ball into the net on the 28th minute and sent the entire stadium to a frenzy.
While the Catalans have been prone to mental collapses under difficult circumstances before, especially on the European stage over the last few years, this time they showed plenty of composure and nerve. Barcelona pulled two goals back through star midfielder Pedri and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to book their tickets for the quarter-finals.
Pedri was also on the scoresheet against Sevilla recently and has been outstanding form. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, meanwhile, is no stranger to either the Europa League or clubs from Germany. He had played several seasons for Borussia Dortmund and the Gabonese striker has scored 24 goals in the Europa League with none of them coming from the penalty spot. Only former Porto, Atletico Madrid, AS Monaco and Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao has scored more goals (27) without a single penalty in the Europa League.
While it’s true that Barcelona have conceded 14 goals in their last three matches against German opponents, all three matches came against a super side in Bayern Munich while Barcelona have been struggling for a while. They have only been defeated three times across their last 20 matches in the Europa League. However, all three losses have come in away games.
FRK vs BAR, UEFA Europa League 2021/22
Date: 8th April, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Deutsche Bank Stadium, Frankfurt
Eintracht Frankfurt Europa League form:
Eintracht Frankfurt form (all competitions):
Barcelona Europa League form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Eintracht Frankfurt wins: 0
Barcelona wins: 0
Eintracht Frankfurt Team News: Frankfurt have a pretty fit and healthy squad heading into this all-important encounter. Only Christopher Lenz, who is suffering from a calf injury, and Diant Ramaj, who has an injured knee, will be the absentees from the Eintracht Frankfurt side. Daichi Kamada also shook off a foot scare and played 69 minutes in the most recent game against Greuther Furth.
Star striker Rafael Borre also received the medical green light after returning from the international break while Martin Hinteregger will be back in contention after serving a domestic league match suspension. This means that Makoto Hasebe could be relegated to the bench in order to accommodate him.
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.
Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti are out of contention as they are still dealing with their long-term injury problems. Sergino Dest has joined the list with a hamstring issue but Barcelona will be able to count on most of their players who have featured in the strong run of results in recent weeks.
Luuk De Jong will be unavailable to feature against his parent club on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. Dani Alves hasn’t been registered for the Europa League and Ronald Araujo might have to start at right-back once again.
Eintracht Frankfurt possible starting lineup:
Trapp; Hinteregger, Ndicka, Tuta; Knauff, Sow, Jakic, Kostic; Kamada, Lindstrom; Borre
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Araujo, Pique, Eric Garcia, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, Frenkie De Jong; Traore, Aubameyang, Ferran Torres
Barcelona are on a roll at the moment and have played some top-tier football. They destroyed Real Madrid 0-4 at the Santiago Bernabeu to make a major statement and cannot be taken lightly. The Catalans will be favourites to secure a win here. Barcelona have scored goals for fun over the last couple of matches while the same cannot be said for Eintracht Frankfurt who have struggled in the final third.