Barcelona v Eintracht Frankfurt: Eagles to show their talons

Eintracht Frankfurt performed superbly against Barcelona last week, and could have won the first leg. Kevin Hatchard thinks they'll go down swinging in Catalunya...

Gloom has been banished at Camp Nou

While Barcelona were far from their best at Deutsche Bank Park last week, they found a way to force a 1-1 draw. At the weekend in La Liga, they gave away three penalties against struggling Levante, but Luuk de Jong scored a last-gasp winner for the Catalan giants. That game was lit up by a delightful link-up between teen titans Gavi and Pedri for Barca's second goal, a moment of magic involving players who could be so vital to the club's development in the next few years.

All talk of crippling financial problems, the ill-fated Ronald Koeman era and the departure of Lionel Messi has faded into the background, and coach Xavi has delivered an impressive style of play allied to a strong run of results in double-quick time. Barca have won nine of their last 11 games in all competitions, and they haven't lost a match since their defeats at the Spanish Super Cup in January.

Barcelona's injury concerns are prominent, with Gerard Pique and Memphis potentially added to a long list of absentees. Ousmane Dembele has been in terrific form in La Liga, but it remains to be seen whether he will get the nod ahead of Adama Traore in the Europa League.

Europa run the only saving grace for Eagles

It wasn't that long ago that Eintracht Frankfurt were battling for Bundesliga survival at the start of coach Niko Kovac's reign. The Eagles squeezed through a relegation playoff against Nurnberg in 2016, and the rest, as they say, is history. A year later SGE were beaten finalists in the DFB Cup, and in 2018 they won the trophy, beating mighty Bayern on a famous night in Berlin. Kovac went on to win a domestic double with Bayern as their coach, while Frankfurt reached the Europa League semi-finals under his replacement Adi Hütter.

The magic of European competition has once again lit up Eintracht's season, which is just as well, as their domestic form has been distinctly underwhelming. The loss of star centre-forward Andre Silva to RB Leipzig hasn't really been mitigated, and in his first season as coach, former Wolfsburg boss Oliver Glasner has struggled to find consistency. Eintracht are a massive 12 points off the top four and five off the top six, and their last two domestic results have seen them draw 0-0 with rock-bottom Greuther Fürth and lose 2-1 to Freiburg.

And yet in the Europa League they have found an extra gear or two. They performed superbly against Barcelona last week, as Ansgar Knauff's stunning volley put them in front, and they made numerous other opportunities. In the previous round they eliminated a very good Real Betis side. On the road in the UEL this term they have won three and drawn the other, scoring in all four matches.

Brazilian defender Tuta is suspended after his first-leg red card, while midfielder Djibril Sow is a doubt after picking up a knock against Freiburg.

Barca to win a thriller

I can understand why Barcelona are favourites to win the game and qualify, but I don't expect Eintracht to surrender meekly. Filip Kostic's dangerous deliveries from the left can cause problems, and Japanese playmaker Daichi Kamada seems to come alive in this competition. Barca's defensive reshuffle may force them into fielding the error-prone Clement Lenglet at centre-back, and I can certainly see Frankfurt scoring here.

On that basis I'll back Barcelona to win and both teams to score on the Sportsbook at 2.88. Barca have conceded at least once in nine of their last 15 games in all competitions.

Auba to haunt Eagles again

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored against Frankfurt as Borussia Dortmund won the DFB Cup final in 2017, and he is in terrific form for the Blaugrana. The Gabon striker has found the net in seven of his last 11 appearances, and he is priced at 1.84 to find the net here.

On the Eintracht Frankfurt side of things, Filip Kostic has five goals and 10 assists across the Bundesliga and Europa League this season. He is a chunky 6.5 to score and 3.1 in the Anytime Assist market.

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