Chelsea will look to continue their charge in the UEFA Europa League as they travel to the Commerzbank-Arena on Thursday night to take on surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Blues are currently in a battle to get into the Premier League top four and with it UEFA Champions League football, so the Europa League could be an excellent method for Maurizio Sarri’s men to return to the top table of European football.
In comparison to their form in the Premier League this season, Sarri’s Blues have been practically irresistible in the Europa League this season and look one of the favourites to claim the trophy. The Londoners have won every single game in the competition besides one this campaign, that occurring in the 2-2 draw with Vidi back in mid-December. They have also claimed victories in every single one of their knockout games on their run to the semi-finals, ousting Malmo, Dynamo Kiev and Slavia Prague. The Blues were made to sweat by the Czech outfit as they almost let a four-goal lead slip at Stamford Bridge before scraping a 4-3 victory, booking their place in the semi-finals. One aspect that does bode well for Sarri and Chelsea is their history in the competition. They have not lost a game in the Europa League since a 3-2 defeat to Rubin Kazan way back in 2013. Even so, the team, then under Rafa Benitez, tasted victory as they lofted the trophy.
One aspect that could potentially worry Eintracht Frankfurt is Chelsea’s away form this season in Europe. The Blues have scored in every single game away from West London this season, keeping four clean sheets in the process. If they repeat that feat Germany, they could have an absolutely fantastic platform in which to win the game and reach the next round.
Despite the signs suggesting that Chelsea could pick up another win, they will have to do it without a few key players. Antonio Rudiger’s season is over after he suffered a knee injury against Manchester United. The German joins Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ethan Ampadu and Marko van Ginkel on the sidelines until at least the start of next season. Elsewhere, wideman Willian is suffering with a knock but could potentially be fit enough to start.
It could potentially be fair to say that Adi Hutter’s troops have been one of the most surprising teams in the Europa League this season. Despite having plenty of European experience as a club, the German outfit have not reached the semi-finals of any continental competition since they went all the way to the final of the 1979/80 UEFA Cup, where they were eventually defeated by Borussia Monchengladbach. Their run to the last-four this year has also been eye-catching. After finishing top of their group which included Lazio, Olympique de Marseille and Apollon, they ousted Shakhtar Donetsk in the first knockout round before also eliminating Inter Milan. It looked like their run was coming to an end in the quarter-finals as they were thumped 4-2 by Benfica but they roared back with a 2-0 win at home to go through.
Their form at the Commerzbank-Arena could well be key as they look to reach the final. In 58 games on home soil in Europe, Die Adler have only lost five. As a matter of fact, their last European defeat at home came during the 2006/07 season, falling 2-1 to Serie A outfit Palmero in the UEFA Cup.
Marc Stendera could be ruled out with a back injury for the game, whilst forward Sebastien Haller has an abominal strain so could be a doubt. Taleb Tawatha is also likely to be ruled out with an ankle injury. The main headline though is the absence of Ante Rebic who is suspended.
Key Facts To Consider
- Chelsea have only ever lost four games out of 21 against German sides in all competitions (W11, D6)
- Eintracht Frankfurt have never lost at home to an English side in Europe
- Olivier Giroud and Luka Jovic are the two highest scorers in the Europa League this season with 10 and eight goals respectively to their names
- Frankfurt have only conceded two goals at home during this season’s competition
- In their four past appearances in the UEFA Europa League, Chelsea have only reached one final
This game seems like a milestone one for Blues boss Sarri. If they are able to get a positive result in Frankfurt and put one foot in the final, it could potentially convince the hierarchy at Stamford Bridge that he deserves to stay. It has to be said though that the hosts will be no pushovers. Having already shocked a few of the big boys in the competition this season, they will need to be shown respect and could get something from this game. Also, with both sides boasting some of the most lethal frontmen in the entire competition this season, there could well be goals in Germany.
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