Luka Jovic is Eintracht Frankfurt's top scorer this season and has won plaudits across the continent for his performances. - © 2019 DFL
Luka Jovic is Eintracht Frankfurt's top scorer this season and has won plaudits across the continent for his performances. - © 2019 DFL
bundesliga

5 reasons Eintracht Frankfurt can STILL beat Chelsea in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals

After a thrilling 1-1 draw in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final with Chelsea, Eintracht Frankfurt head to London on Thursday determined to secure a place in the Baku showpiece on 29 May.

Here are five reasons the Eagles can book their place in a major European final for the first time since 1980...

1) Unstoppable front line

Adi Hütter has his charges playing with a thrilling blend of tenacity, dynamism and fearlessness, which has seen them become the highest-scoring German side in a single Europa League campaign after taking their tally to 29 in the first leg against the Blues.

Nineteen of those (65 per cent) have been scored by one of the team's now not-so-secret weapons: Luka Jovic (nine), Sebastien Haller (five), Filip Kostic (four) and Ante Rebic (one). Indeed, Frankfurt's rampant style of play means they have scored in all but one of their 13 European outings this term, and only failed to find the net in four of their 45 competitive matches so far all season.

All four will be relishing the prospect of facing a Chelsea defence that showed its vulnerabilities in the 5-3 aggregate win over Slavia Prague in the last eight. Even manager Maurizio Sarri has taken note of the Eagles' potency: "Eintracht for sure are a great team with a wonderful striker, Jovic."

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

2) Haller's return

While Haller's absence didn't affect the ultimate outcome against Benfica, it was noticeable over the course of two legs. Goncalo Paciencia is a capable replacement up front, bringing a similar muscular presence, but he has only just recovered from a long-term injury and does not yet have the same instinctive link-up play with his attacking partners.

That's where the Frenchman comes into his own: his hold-up play and aerial ability allow the explosive nature of Jovic and Rebic to flourish. In the Bundesliga, Haller has had a hand in 23 goals in 27 appearances and is currently one assist away from hitting double digits as both a taker (14) and maker (nine).

With five goals to his name in the Europa League already this season, the 24-year-old's anticipated return for the second leg at Stamford Bridge will be a huge boost to Frankfurt’s prospects of reaching the final in Baku.

Sebastien Haller has 14 Bundesliga goals this season to go with the five he has scored in the Europa League. His expected return to fitness will be welcome against Chelsea. - imago/Hartenfelser

3) #12gegen11

The above hashtag - '12 against 11' - refers to Frankfurt's noisy home crowd and was inspired by a fan following the first-leg defeat to Benfica in the quarter-finals. The supporters more than played their part in the return fixture, creating stunning tifos and a spine-tingling atmosphere that inspired the Eagles to a 2-0 win and a place in the semis.

Frankfurt's '12th man' put in another jaw-dropping display at the Commerzbank Arena on Thursday as their side played out a 1-1 draw with the Blues – but it is their unbelievable commitment to following the club to the four corners of the continent that has made them the envy of Europe.

"The tifo was exceptional," enthused Gelson Fernandes after the first leg. "I'm proud of our fans. Chelsea were our toughest opponents of the season, but we showed that we can hold our own. Everything's still up in the air."

Up in the air is exactly where thousands of Frankfurt fans will soon be as they jet over to London for the second leg. After invading Kharkiv, Milan and Lisbon in the previous rounds, the Frankfurt faithful are preparing to descend on the British capital en masse to help the Eagles over the line, with unofficial estimates suggesting over 20,000 supporters will make the trip.

Eintracht Frankfurt have been putting on a show in the Europa League both on and off the pitch. - imago images / osnapix

4) 4-3-3 vs. 3-5-2 

While Chelsea have a somewhat inflexible 4-3-3 system that has been dubbed 'Sarri-ball', Frankfurt have proven capable of adopting alternative approaches throughout the current campaign to probe for weakness.

If they can win the battle of the midfield trios, Kostic and Danny da Costa can stretch the play, while the pace of the front three is enough to cause the likes of David Luiz, Antonio Rüdiger and Jorginho problems.

Frankfurt's intensity levels have proven problematic for every opponent they've faced thus far – even Benfica struggled at times despite playing with an extra man for 70 minutes of the first leg – and the outcome of the tie could hinge on Chelsea's ability, or lack thereof, to match it.

Watch: What makes Luka Jovic so good?

5) Underestimate them at your own peril

Frankfurt have been upsetting the odds all season. Hütter's men were not expected to even survive the group stage at the start of the campaign, but ended up top of Group H after beating last season's runners-up Marseille and a resurgent Lazio side to go into the knockout rounds as one of two teams – alongside Red Bull Salzburg – with a perfect record of six wins.

Nevertheless, the Eagles were still considered underdogs against subsequent opponents Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan and Benfica, who had all played in the UEFA Champions League group stage this term. Yet Frankfurt won three, drew two and lost one of those knockout matches, scoring 11 times along the way to reach the last four.

"It was a really impressive result against a very good team, we gave a great account of ourselves," Hütter declared after the first leg against the Blues. "We put in a great performance, particularly in the early stages, when our fans once again spurred us on with their fantastic tifo. For the return leg Chelsea's fate is still in their hands, but everything's possible and we're confident."

With nothing to lose and potentially just 90 minutes separating them from the final in Baku, something that seemed unthinkable at the start of the season is now well within Frankfurt's grasp.