Europa League – Eintracht Frankfurt v Chelsea – Semifinal Round
And then there is four…
We are two weeks away from knowing the participants of the Europa League final in Baku, Azerbaijan. Like the Champions League, we could see an all-England final… or a couple of upstart clubs from the continent instead.
As we’ve done for the last few rounds, we’ll provide an update on the matchups and who we might think will come out on top. Up next is Eintracht Frankfurt playing host to Europa League favorite Chelsea in semifinal number two. The first leg of their matchup kicks off at 3:00pm EST (8:00pm BST) from Waldstadion in Frankfurt, Germany.
What Happened in the Quarterfinals
The clubs had a bit of a different experience last round in order to reach this point.
First, Chelsea really lucked out in their quarterfinal draw, facing off against Slavia Prague, who entered the round as the longest shot to advance. Their chances weren’t helped when Chelsea won leg one 1-0 in Prague, shifting their odds of advancing to nearly 100%. And though leg two from Stamford Bridge looked like a close match based on the 4-3 Chelsea win, it really wasn’t that close, with Chelsea racing out to 3-0 and 4-1 leads in the first half before conceding two meaningless second half goals, advancing 5-3 on aggregate.
For Eintracht Frankfurt, however, their path was slightly more treacherous. They lost leg one to Benfica 4-2, though their two goals scored in Lisbon would end up being very important. As we predicted, the home crowd in Frankfurt for leg two helped their cause, with the defense shutting down Benfica’s teen superstar João Félix after his leg one hat trick. Eintracht Frankfurt won leg two 2-0, pulling even at 4-4 on aggregate but advancing thanks to those two goals scored in Lisbon the week prior.
Back Home in League Play
Since their last Europa League matches on 18 April, both clubs have only played twice, and the results haven’t had much impact on their league performance.
Prior to the last round, Eintracht Frankfurt was in 4th place in Bundesliga; after two matches, they remain in the same place with four league matches to go. A top four finish would place them in the much more lucrative Champions League next season. They can solidify their league position with a match against Bayer Leverkusen this weekend – Eintracht Frankfurt is up by three points – but a season-ending match against Bayern Munich looms.
Chelsea also finds themselves in 4th place in the Premier League, though they’ve spent the past few weeks flipping back and forth between 4th and 5th with Arsenal. They are currently two points ahead of Arsenal, and have a relatively easy schedule over the final two matches. If Arsenal does end up over taking them for fourth, however, the Blues will probably look back to a draw against Burnley two weeks ago as being a missed opportunity to pick up an additional two points. They’ve already clinched at least a spot in Europa League next season, though a top 4 finish – or a win in Baku at the end of May – would cement their return to Champions League.
What the Experts are Saying
As they have been for the past few rounds, Chelsea remains the favorite to win the tournament, though not overwhelmingly so. Unlike Champions League, where the two clubs at the top of the favorite board are facing off against each other this round, Europa League really seems to have a 1v4 and 2v3 feel to it. If we sort the clubs by FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ranking, it does end up playing out this way.
Chelsea has a 67% chance of reaching the final in Baku, and a 39% chance of winning the entire tournament; Eintracht Frankfurt is the underdog overall, with only a 15% chance of winning the entire tournament. Furthermore, even though they are the home club for leg one, Eintracht Frankfurt is not expected to win Thursday either, winning in only 34% of FiveThirtyEight simulations.
What We’re Thinking
Eintracht Frankfurt remains undefeated at home during Europa League, while Chelsea has failed to lose on the road in Europa (or at all, honestly – 11-1-0 in the tournament) so something is going to give… or they’ll play to a draw and keep both streaks intact.
Chelsea gets the upper hand in the overall matchup because they play host next week, and Eintracht Frankfurt is coming off a massive loss on the road last round against Benfica. In order to overcome their long odds in this one, they need to find a way to at least end with a draw, while also limiting the scoring for Chelsea on the road. I don’t think that is very likely, honestly, especially with how dominant the Blues have been in the tournament this season.
Until next time…