Eintracht Frankfurt v West Ham: Don't count Hammers out yet

West Ham are 2-1 down heading into the second leg of their Europa League semi-final in Frankfurt, but our Bundesliga columnist Kevin Hatchard thinks the English club can reach the final.

Frankfurt have come a long way in a short time

The ball was rolled across the face of goal, and Haris Seferovic stuck out a leg, diverting that ball past Nürnberg goalkeeper Raphael Schäfer and into the net. In doing so, the Swiss striker shaped the future of Eintracht Frankfurt for years to come. The Eagles edged out their Franconian opponents 1-0, and squeezed through 2016's Bundesliga relegation play-off.

Since then, Frankfurt have reached two DFB Pokal finals (they won the 2018 one against Bayern), and they are now contesting their second Europa League semi-final in the space of four seasons. Fans have travelled to Milan and Marseille, Lisbon and London, Salzburg and Seville, Basel and Barcelona. These are the glory days, the moments to cherish, the times when the lucky few can say they were there.

At the London Stadium last week, Frankfurt played with purpose and belief. A magnificent team goal silenced the crowd in the very first minute, and despite being pegged back, the goal that Japanese playmaker Daichi Kamada scrambled in to win the first leg came as no real surprise. There were scares during that 2-1 win - Jarrod Bowen twice hit the woodwork, and goalkeeper Kevin Trapp excelled, as he has done so often in Europe this term.

In the style of Unai Emery, whose career is indelibly linked to this competition, Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner has sacrificed the Bundesliga campaign on the European altar. The Eagles haven't won any of their last six league games, but nobody truly cares as long as it serves the central cause.

Frankfurt are a draw or a win away from a European final, and the decision to rest Martin Hinteregger, Daichi Kamada, Ansgar Knauff and Djibril Sow for Monday's defeat at Bayer Leverkusen made perfect sense. Expect all of them to start on Thursday, although man mountain Hinteregger has been suffering with a heavy cold, and Danish winger Jesper Lindstrom faces a race against time to be fit.

Can Hammers come through the fire again?

West Ham have performed best in this competition when their backs are against the wall. When they were 1-0 down from the first leg against Sevilla, they used the energy of the crowd on a special night at the hitherto unloved London Stadium to find a way to win the tie in extra time. Against Lyon, Aaron Cresswell's clumsy defending and Moussa Dembele's gamesmanship saw David Moyes' side have to play most of the first leg with 10 men, but they ground out a 1-1 draw. At the Groupama Stadium, West Ham weathered an early storm, before showing ruthlessness in front of goal to build an unassailable 3-0 lead.

This trip to Deutsche Bank Park represents West Ham's biggest challenge of the campaign. They must overturn a 2-1 deficit against a physical and streetwise side that will be roared on by a ferocious crowd. As they were against Sevilla and Lyon, the Hammers will be on the back foot at times, and they must find a way to endure.

The indefatigable Michail Antonio has led the line magnificently, scoring goals and making goals. Craig Dawson has gone from squad player to defensive mainstay. And then there is Declan Rice, a midfielder of heart and quality, of grit and grace, a true leader in deed and spirit.

Apart from long-term injury victim Angelo Ogbonna, the Hammers should be able to field their strongest side here.

West Ham can block out the noise

The Frankfurt fans will give their side incredible support, but West Ham are experienced enough and good enough to deal with that, and their price of 3.85 to qualify on the Exchange is simply too big to ignore. If you look at Frankfurt's previous knockout rounds, they drew at home against Barcelona but won at Camp Nou, and they won in Seville against Real Betis before losing at home in 90 minutes, only scraping through at the end of extra-time.

Frankfurt's home record shouldn't exactly inspire fear, and I think West Ham have shown that when chances arrive, they can be clinical.

You can back West Ham to qualify, or just back them to win the second leg outright at 2.96.

Another way to approach it is to use the Bet Builder to back West Ham/Draw Double Chance and Over 1.5 Goals at 1.92. That would cover a 1-1 or 2-2 draw, a 2-0 or 2-1 Hammers win, and plenty of other results besides. I can't see this staying too cagey for too long.

Bowen can shine again

Ahead of the Lyon win, I backed Jarrod Bowen to score at a chunky price of 4.3, and he was probably West Ham's best player last week. He is 3.75 to find the net again here, which is attractive when you consider he had scored in four of his last eight games, and has scored 16 goals in all competitions. You can also use the new To Score or Assist market at 2.4.

On the Frankfurt side of things, Daichi Kamada was outstanding last week, and he seems to come alive in the Europa League. The Japanese schemer is 2.8 to get a goal or an assist, and 4.5 to score at any time. He has been involved in six goals across his 11 UEL appearances this season, and he's probably a good cover bet if things go against West Ham.

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