Luka Jovic will be out to find the target against former club Benfica for the second week running as Eintracht Frankfurt look to overturn a two-goal deficit in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images
Luka Jovic will be out to find the target against former club Benfica for the second week running as Eintracht Frankfurt look to overturn a two-goal deficit in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Five reasons why Eintracht Frankfurt can STILL beat Benfica in the UEFA Europa League


Ten-man Eintracht Frankfurt may have suffered a 4-2 defeat in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final at Benfica, but all is not lost before welcoming the Portuguese side to the Commerzbank Arena next Thursday.

Here are five reasons the Eagles can still get the better of a side who share the same nickname...

1) Eleven men on the pitch

Frankfurt went into the first leg at the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica without having tasted defeat in this year's Europa League, but their run of eight wins and two draws was ended after Evan N'Dicka's dismissal on 20 minutes handed Benfica the initiative.

"It hurts a bit, but we still have our chances for the return leg," Frankfurt coach Adi Hütter explained to RTL. "I think we will put them under serious pressure. In the 10 minutes before the break we went to sleep a bit, but the red card definitely played into Benfica's hands. I didn't see anything from them before that. We had the game under control."

The 1980 UEFA Cup winners will be out for revenge after suffering their first loss in all competitions in 2019, and will feel they have what it takes to overhaul Benfica with 11 men on the field. Goncalo Paciencia's second-half header - a vital away goal to make it 4-2 - could prove crucial as the Eagles look to blow their opponents away on home soil.

Goncalo Paciencia's superb header has given Eintracht Frankfurt hope ahead of their quarter-final second leg at home to Benfica. - imago images / Jan Huebner

2) Goals galore

With 26 goals, Eintracht are the joint-leading scorers in the Europa League this season, alongside Sevilla and Chelsea. Hütter's side require a 2-0 home win to book their place in the semi-finals, and the Austrian tactician will be more than confident they can come up with the goods on Thursday.

One of four former winners of the UEFA Cup or Europa League still standing, Frankfurt have scored at least two goals in nine of their 11 games in the competition so far this term. They have even racked up four goals on home soil on three occasions, putting Lazio (4-1), Marseille (4-0) and last 32 opponents Shakhtar Donetsk (4-1) to the sword. Benfica will consider they have got the job done at their peril.

Serbia star Luka Jovic leads the way on eight goals, including a well-dispatched effort to make it 1-1 against his parent club. Sebastien Haller follows with five goals and two assists, but the threat could come from anywhere at the Commerzbank Arena - no fewer than nine Frankfurt players have netted in the Europa League this term.

Ante Rebic had to be substituted off with a minor knee complaint in Lisbon, but Hütter will be hopeful of recovering the Croatian, who is part of one of the most potent attacking trios in world football. With 28 games played, Jovic, Haller and Rebic have accounted for 40 of Eintracht's 57 Bundesliga goals in 2018/19, which means their contribution to the league's fourth-best attack stands at over 70 per cent.

Watch: Learn why Eintracht's front three are so lethal

3) Winter signings making the difference

Eintracht were shrewd in their shopping last summer, bringing back goalkeeper Kevin Trapp from Paris Saint-Germain and adding N'Dicka and Filip Kostic to replace the likes of Lukas Hradecky, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Marius Wolf.

Their winter transfer business looks just as good, with both Martin Hinteregger and Sebastian Rode starting all five knockout matches in the Europa League to date - even if they were forced into damage limitation mode after N'Dicka's sending-off in Lisbon.

A loan arrival from Augsburg, Austrian defender Hinteregger scored a crucial early away goal in the first leg of the last-32 tie against Ukrainian champions Shakhtar. He also went close to getting on the scoresheet again in the opening match with Inter, which would have capped his dominant display in the scoreless draw in Germany, but did prove the match-winner in a narrow league victory over Nuremberg.

Rode, meanwhile, covered every blade of glass at the San Siro, snapping into tackles and driving his team forward once he had the ball at his feet.

"I feel very good at the moment and the coach has faith in me, which makes it easier," the energetic German midfielder said after the win in Italy. "At the end I had cramp in my calf and then in my abs, so I had nothing left."

Rode made his name at Eintracht before moving on to Bayern Munich and then Borussia Dortmund. Like Hinteregger, he is relishing the chance to make his mark at the business end of a top European competition.

Watch: See why N'Dicka was named February's Rookie of the Month 

4) Experience at the back

N'Dicka made headlines for the wrong reasons in the first leg against Benfica, being shown a straight red card for bringing down Gedson Fernandes inside the penalty area. It was a harsh lesson for the 19-year-old, will no doubt emerge stronger for the experience. The France U20 international had been in supreme form lately, claiming the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month award for February as a result of his cool defending and smart passing.

In N'Dicka's absence, Frankfurt will be able to call on a highly experienced defensive trio made up of club captain David Abraham - who missed the Inter games through injury - January signing Hinteregger, and Japanese veteran Makoto Hasebe.

Hasebe skippered the side in Italy, and the 35-year-old delivered another masterful performance. A former defensive midfielder, the ex-Wolfsburg stalwart led by example at the heart of the defence, with his anticipation and bravery being central to many of his side's 32 clearances.

Eintracht will be very wary of a Benfica team who scored four goals in the first leg - and they will need to keep a close eye on the visitors' hat-trick hero Joao Felix - but having an 11th man on the pitch and a 12th in the stands is likely to make a considerable difference.

If the back three don’t manage to keep the Portuguese giants at bay, then Trapp just might. The Germany international didn't have his best night in Lisbon, but he has been in fine fettle since returning on loan from PSG. The 28-year-old made a crucial penalty save in the first match against Inter before earning a second shutout in Milan.

Austria international Martin Hinteregger was in top form against Inter Milan, and has proved an excellent signing for Frankfurt. - imago images / HMB-Media

5) The Commerzbank factor

The Frankfurt faithful will have a major role to play as their beloved Eagles attempt to defy the odds and oust Benfica from the competition. The Commerzbank-Arena has only witnessed three defeats in the Bundesliga this season - against Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich - while in the Europa League there have been four wins and a draw.

"We need our fans, they're our 12th man," stressed Paciencia, whose goal in Lisbon has kept Eintracht's hopes alive. "Of course we still have a chance to progress, we have to believe it. We've already shown that we are stronger than Benfica. Our two goals in Portugal were important."

Paciencia - the son of former Porto legend Domingos - would no doubt love to play a part in getting the better of their great rivals Benfica, while Frankfurt's other goalscorer from the first leg, Jovic, will be determined to snatch the attention away from Joao Felix against his former club.

The 21-year-old Serbian initially moved to Frankfurt on a two-year loan deal from Benfica, having only made two league appearances in Portugal before leaving for Germany. This term he has netted 25 goals in all competitions, and remains Eintracht's greatest weapon heading into the second leg.

"We need a perfect game at home," Hütter concluded. "But I'm convinced that we can beat Benfica."

So too are the 48,000 fans who will pack into a sold-out Commerzbank-Arena next Thursday night, expecting plenty more twists and turns in what has already been an exceptional European adventure.