Europa League – Benfica v Eintracht Frankfurt – Quarterfinal Round
It’s time for the Europa League quarterfinals, with the first leg kicking off around Europe on 11 April at 3:00pm EST (8:00pm GMT). We covered the draw after it happened last month, and we’ll be taking a look at all four matchups this week.
Up next, we’re going to take a look at the matchup between Portuguese club Benfica playing hosts to Germany’s own Eintracht Frankfurt. Their leg one match kicks off from Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal on Thursday, 11 April at 9:00pm GMT (3:00pm EST).
What Happened in the Round of 16
Both clubs had different experiences in the Round of 16, but both emerged from the round after entering the second leg of the round as underdogs.
Benfica dug themselves into a hole during leg one, losing 1-0 in Croatia to Dinamo Zagreb, which lowered their chances of advancing from 77% before the match to 53% before leg two kicked off. Zagreb held on or much of leg two in Portugal, keeping their hosts scoreless for 70+ minutes before Jonas scored the equalizing goal for Benfica. The match went to extra time, with Benfica’s quality finally overtaking the plucky Croatians, with the Eagles adding two goals during extra time to win the match 3-0 and advance 3-1 on aggregate.
Eintracht Frankfurt entered their leg one match with Inter Milan a slight underdog, and managed to hold the powerful Serie A club scoreless to leave Germany on equal footing after a draw. When action shifted to Milan, the Germans struck early, with Luka Jović scoring in the 6th minute. Frankfurt then held on for dear life, and emerged victorious in the match and the round, advancing 1-0 on aggregate.
Back Home in League Play
Benfica remains among the best in class of the Primeira Liga in Portugal. After finishing second last season, they have followed up with another strong season this year, currently leading the league and in the midst of a 13-match unbeaten streak (12-1-0). They also have won both matches against Porto, giving them a leg up should the clubs scoring gap close down the stretch. Benfica has already clinched a return to Europa League next season and is in good position for a return trip to the Champions League.
Eintracht Frankfurt, on the other hand, has improved on their performance in last season’s Bundesliga, where they finished in 8th position (they qualified for Europa League by winning the German football cup). They currently find themselves in 4th place in the league table, and in position to go to Champions League next season. They’ve won six matches in a row, and are unbeaten in 11 matches overall (7-4-0), and hope to finish the season strong to claim that Champions League berth.
What the Experts are Saying
Like our first preview of the round, this matchup is a toss-up, with Benfica the slight favorite (51%) to advance to the semifinals (per FiveThirtyEight). The Portuguese club is also favored in Thursday’s match, which is expected as the home club, but unless they take full advantage of the home pitch, this matchup could see a true win-or-take-all match next week in Frankfurt.
What We’re Thinking
Eintracht is undefeated in Europa League this year, blitzing through group stage play (6-0-0; +12 goal differential) before going 2-2-0 through the first two rounds of the knockout phase. And even though they defeated my personal favorite club from the competition (RIP Shakhtar Donetsk’s 2018-19 Europa League run), they have become my favorite club remaining in the tournament.
Does that mean they will win this matchup? I have no idea. (My favorite clubs tend to not do well when so anointed). Benfica has lost only three times at home across all competitions this season, so we have to expect they’ll come out kicking on Thursday to hopefully deny Frankfurt important away goals. They’ve also struggled on the road in European competition thus far this season, including a loss last round, so they need every advantage they can get.
I truly think this one will have a second leg that is going to matter, so we’ll definitely keep an eye on this matchup on Thursday.
Until next time…