Eintracht Frankfurt v Barcelona: Fireworks in Frankfurt
Eintracht Frankfurt face one of the biggest games in their history on Thursday night, and our Bundesliga columnist Kevin Hatchard expects goals at Deutsche Bank Park...
UEL love affair rekindled for the Eagles
Eintracht Frankfurt were just a few penalty-kicks away from reaching the Europa League final in 2019, but Chelsea progressed to the big dance in Baku instead, and went on to win the tournament. That continental adventure three years ago was a joy for Eagles fans, who travelled in their thousands to Marseille, Milan, Lisbon and London.
This season, with the club's league form fluctuating wildly in the first campaign under former Wolfsburg boss Oliver Glasner, the European adventure has once again been the shining light. Frankfurt won their group, and then did superbly to edge out an excellent Betis side in the last 16, as they scored right at the end of extra time.
The unreliable league form reared its ugly head again on Saturday, as Glasner's men played out a goalless draw with the Bundesliga's bottom side Greuther Fürth. Visiting keeper Andreas Linde had a fine game, denying Jesper Lindstrom twice and thwarting Goncalo Paciencia late on. However, with a full house in again on Thursday night for one of the biggest games in the club's history, we can expect a more dynamic display.
Glasner can field a full-strength team on Thursday, with imposing centre-back Martin Hinteregger fully rested after missing the weekend's game through suspension.
Barca sprinting for the finish line
It's amazing how quickly things can change in football. Just a few short months on from the tearful exit of club titan Lionel Messi, a departure set against the backdrop of crippling financial problems, Barca are looking far healthier on and off the pitch. They have struck a naming rights deal with musical giants Spotify, arranged a large bank loan, and have renegotiated a number of contracts.
An influx of talent in January did no harm at all, with Adama Traore, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres and Dani Alves all making impacts to varying degress. Wayward but lavishly gifted winger Ousmane Dembele is still set to leave when his contract expires in the summer (as things stand), but he has produced some of his best form in a Barcelona shirt since living legend Xavi became coach.
And then there is Pedri. The 19-year-old has been a revelation for Barcelona and for Spain, and since his return from injury he has scored magnificent goals against Galatasaray and Sevilla. There are whole queues of opposition players who need tickets to get back into the stadium, as Pedri shimmies, dances and jinks. He isn't just one of the most exciting teenagers in the football world, he's simply one of the most exciting players the sport has to offer.
Dani Alves isn't eligible (he wasn't included in the UEL squad), while Ansu Fati isn't expected to be involved, despite his recent return to training.
Frankfurt can hang in there
Eintracht haven't had great home form of late in the Bundesliga, but there'll be a special atmosphere at Deutsche Bank Park, and the Eagles have a fully fit side with all of their key players available. If you look at their home games against elite Bundesliga teams, they gave Bayern scares in a 1-0 defeat, and blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund. They held RB Leipzig to a 1-1 draw, and thrashed Bayer Leverkusen 5-2.
I accept that an in-form Barca offer an incredibly tough challenge (especially if they play like they did in the 4-0 win at Real Madrid), but I'm happy to back Frankfurt +1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.75. We only lose if Frankfurt lose by two clear goals, and we get a full pay-out if the hosts avoid defeat.
If you don't mind laying at a price of 2.26, you could oppose Barca in the Half Time market. Barca were level at the break in both of their games against Galatasaray in the previous round, and they have led at the break in just six of their last 17 games in all competitions.
Goals on the cards
Roared on by the home crowd, I can't see Frankfurt holding back here and trying to dig in, because they know eventually they'll be picked off by such a talented side. This is their big chance to make an impact, and I expect a lively game.
11 of Barcelona's last 15 games have featured at least three goals, and nine of those 11 contained four goals or more. Five of their last eight away games have seen an Over 3.5 Goals bet land. I'll back Over 3.0 Goals here on the Goal Lines market at 2.08.
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