An Eintracht Frankfurt side fuelled by the creative juices of Rafael Santos Borre spell trouble for West Ham in the UEFA Europa League. - © IMAGO / Focus Images
An Eintracht Frankfurt side fuelled by the creative juices of Rafael Santos Borre spell trouble for West Ham in the UEFA Europa League. - © IMAGO / Focus Images

5 reasons Eintracht Frankfurt will beat West Ham United in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals


Taking a 2-1 lead back to a raucous Deutsche Bank Park, and with Filip Kostic blazing a trail at one end of the field and both Kevin Trapp and Martin Hinteregger running a tight ship at the other, Eintracht Frankfurt's pursuit of a second European trophy is in good shape when they face West Ham United in the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg.

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With Frankfurt the talk of Europe after beating Barcelona in the quarter-finals and the tie in their advantage after its first leg, presents five reasons why they will overcome the challenge of West Ham...

1) King Kostic

With five assists in 10 games, Kostic is currently the assist king in the Europa League, while he also raised his tally of goals to three with his brace in Barcelona. It can thus be concluded that the Serbian winger is the greatest menace in this edition of the Europa League. His 123 crosses - bolstered by nine in last week's first leg - is another tournament-leading figure, with the next on that particular list having made only 87 deliveries from a wide area, and no player has found a teammate more times than Kostic's crosses (34).

Watch: Filip Kostic, Frankfurt's assist machine

Such statistics are not particularly surprising for followers of the Bundesliga, with the Serbian's left boot rightly rated as one of the best in the division. The 29-year-old has set up eight goals in the Bundesliga this season, but nobody can even hold a candle to his league-leading 180 crosses from open play. Compare that with another left-foot magician seeking a place in the Europa League final, RB Leipzig's Angelino, who has sent in 111 crosses, and you can see why Kostic is the man to watch out for.

His one-man show at the Camp Nou was just that little bit more evidence of why West Ham should fear Frankfurt. And, while he didn't have a direct involvement in either of Frankfurt's goals in the first meeting between the two, it came as little surprise that Kostic played a part in the build-up of both goals that were each crafted from his left flank.

2) Frankfurt put the 'fan' in fantastic

The Eagles landed in London in their droves. In scenes reminiscent of Cologne's trip to Arsenal in the 2017/18 Europa League, there were reportedly more than 10,000 Frankfurt fans that descended upon the English capital for the first leg, and while just 3,000 of them were lucky enough to get a ticket, the rest nonetheless made their presence felt in the Big Smoke.

Anybody watching that historic win at Camp Nou in the quarter-finals may have rubbed their eyes to believe what they were seeing – and hearing, for that matter. Among the over 80,000 spectators were nigh on 20,000 Frankfurt followers, not just packed into the visitors' block, but scattered among the crowd; the white of Frankfurt's away kit was the prominent colour in a normally blue and maroon mosaic.

There were 48,000 inside the Deutsche Park for the first leg against Barcelona and the stadium will again be pulsating for the visit of West Ham. It's no doubt that the raucous home support can give Frankfurt's players the lift they need to secure a spot in the final and, with such vociferous support, it is hard not to put in an extra dose of effort.

3) Setting the Trapp from the back

In Trapp, Frankfurt boast a goalkeeper who has made 26 saves in the Europa League this season (ranked fourth), including one from the penalty spot. The way he stood up to the might of Barcelona, conceding only deep into stoppage time in Spain when the tie was already decided, earned just as much praise as Kostic's attacking prowess, and rightly so.

He may not have had too much to do in the first leg but his one save at the London Stadium was crucial as the slightest touch of Trapp's trailing foot diverted Jarrod Bowen's effort onto the post and out to safety, with Frankfurt 1-0 up at the time. West Ham did level eventually but, even then, Trapp almost pulled off a stunning save to deny Michail Antonio.

Frankfurt conceded just six goals in the group stage and have continued to concede an average of just over one goal per game all the way along their unbeaten path to the semi-finals – and this should also be underlined: Frankfurt have not lost a single game in Europe yet this season. They therefore come into this final four tie with broad shoulders, personified by Hinteregger, their giant and fearless Austrian defender.

Frankfurt No.1 Kevin Trapp is one of the best and most experienced goalkeepers in the Bundesliga. - IMAGO/HMB Media/IMAGO/HMB-Media

With 18 tackles and 45 clearances, Hinteregger ranks in the Europa League's top three on both accounts, while only three players – including teammate Evan N'Dicka (63) – have made more than his 62 ball recoveries. And Hinteregger will certainly relish the occasion in front of a spirited home support.

4) Knauff hitting his straps

Ansgar Knauff reminded parent club Borussia Dortmund what they're missing with a pair of effervescent displays on the right wing against Barcelona, including a stunning volleyed goal in the first leg. He then backed that up by heading home the opener against West Ham and the 20-year-old appears to be getting better and better with each passing week.

"It was an incredible game," said Knauff after the first leg. "We kicked off and immediately scored the first goal through me. That was a great feeling. The fans helped us a lot again. Even though there weren’t as many this time, they created a super atmosphere... The journey continues, we’re one step from the final. We’re going to do everything we can with the team and the fans to get there."

Knauff's form in front of goal in Europe proves that Eintracht have goals in them from all over the pitch. Rafael Borre is their leading marksman in all competitions in 2021/22 with nine goals, while the fleet-footed Jesper Lindstrom is third behind Kostic and Borre for combined goals and assists (14) this term.  And not forgetting Japan international Daichi Kamada - another uber-industrious Eintracht forward and the club's five-goal top scorer in this season's competition after hitting the winner in London. He's also the highest-scoring player from The Land of the Rising Sun in the history of the Europa League (11 goals in 27 appearances). Time for the sun to set on West Ham's run...

Watch: The best of Eintracht Frankfurt

5) Winners in 1980

Frankfurt have done it before, lifting the UEFA Cup in 1980 for their first and hitherto only major international title, and back then, they had to see off no less than Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, and they did so despite losing the first leg 2-0 in Munich. They then beat Borussia Mönchengladbach on away goals in the final, with much of what makes Frankfurt the club they are today – that fervent support and exciting brand of football – on view in both of those ties.

That was the last time two German sides met in a showpiece of European football's second-biggest club competition, and with Leipzig facing Rangers in the other semi-final, the motivation to make the 2022 edition the next all-German affair will be strong. The last German side to appear in the final were Werder Bremen, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2009. You have to go back to 1997 to find the last German winners of the UEFA Cup/Europa League, when Schalke's 'Eurofighters' beat Inter Milan, so another win is certainly long overdue, and Frankfurt have proven they've got what it takes to break that taboo.