Danny da Costa believes that if Eintracht Frankfurt reach the UEFA Europa League final it would be the “cherry on top” of their already remarkable European campaign in 2018/19.
Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com, the full-back talked about Frankfurt’s European aims ahead of their quarter-final tie with Benfica, their prolific attack and life under Adi Hütter since he succeeded Niko Kovac.
bundesliga.com: Danny da Costa, would you prefer to reach the Europa League final or qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the top four of the Bundesliga?
Da Costa: “A tough question. I think the Europa League final would be amazing, and reaching it the way we’ve had to go by playing against Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk, teams who had also played in the Champions League. To get to the final would be the cherry on top. After experiencing the DFB Cup final last year, this would be a step up so it would be a great experience. However, if we get knocked out of the Europa League but reach the Champions League via the league then I think we can still say that is one of our greatest achievements.”
bundesliga.com: Frankfurt had over 15,000 fans in Milan for the Europa League round of 16 second leg and are averaging attendances of almost 50,000 at home this season. What makes Eintracht support so special?
Da Costa: “It’s hard to explain. The amount of euphoria we have experienced since the cup final is unimaginable. With the first home game in the Europa League, it was evident that the competition was a special thing and really important. That we started off so successfully definitely played a part in that, but to have 20,000 fans who had to find every possible way of getting tickets to support us in Milan is incredible.
"After the game we stood in front of that corner of the stadium to thank them, and I could hardly see them because they were so high up and dressed in dark colours, but the support that we received from them over the 90 minutes was fantastic. I think people in Europe enjoy seeing how engaged the fans are, especially in the Europa League. As a player there’s nothing better than playing in front of a crowd such as this one who also support you in such a way on the road as well. I had never experienced something like this before and to experience it now is incredible.”
bundesliga.com: Eintracht boast one of Europe’s most prolific attacking trios this season with Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic. What’s it like playing alongside them?
Da Costa: “It’s definitely a lot of fun! It’s great to have this quality in the team because they can score a goal out of very little. Now, with Goncalo [Paciencia] back from injury we have another player who has joined right in with the others as he scored right away. Especially in the game against Hoffenheim, where he scored the winning goal in the last second of the game, shows how incredible our attacking force is right now. It's great to be assisting this strike force, so it is really a lot of fun.”
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bundesliga.com: You’ve scored two goals of your own in the Bundesliga this season. How does it feel when you find the back of the net?
Da Costa: “Well I’m often overwhelmed in the moments afterwards. When I watch others it always looks very calculated and a routine as they score, run to the flag in the corner and celebrate, dance or whatever. I end up asking myself what I just did, what am I doing so far up the pitch. I then run to whoever, unsure who it is, I thank the person who assisted me, I turn to the fans. What I need is a guide who tells me where to go after scoring. It’s definitely a great feeling.”
bundesliga.com: What’s the atmosphere like within the team?
Da Costa: “In the changing room, if I think about the hours we spend there before training, there’s non-stop laughter. Sometimes you don’t even know what you are laughing about because you may have missed something as there are so many languages about. However, it is always noisy and someone always has something to say. Like every other team, we also have a WhatsApp group in which you will find something each day that makes you laugh. It is noticeable that we have a great mentality and it is evident on the pitch as everyone is desperate to win. I think that sets us apart the most this season.”
bundesliga.com: You won the DFB Cup in your first season with Eintracht under Niko Kovac. How do things compare under Adi Hütter?
Da Costa: “Firstly they have many similarities. I think they are both very meticulous and make sure that everything is right down to every single detail. I could say this for Niko and the same goes for Adi Hütter. I think he has brought a stronger willingness for risk into the team, in some situations it may seem a bit daring but he told us right from the start that he is a coach who likes to play attacking, risk-taking football.
"At the beginning we needed a bit of time to adjust, but now I think you can see we have one of the best attacking forces in the league, which of course also depends on the style of play you have. Last season it was different and we worked our way up the pitch by controlling the game from the back, but this was also very effective as we were high up the league table right until the end, and of course the cup win. I think these are the greatest differences between the managers: the underpinning mentality which they embody.”
bundesliga.com: What does the rest of the Bundesliga season hold for Eintracht Frankfurt?
Da Costa: “I think right now we’re in a position where we are being heavily chased by other teams all around us. Borussia Mönchengladbach, who just gave us the fourth spot, will be want to win it back at any cost. Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen are of course also desperate to get in on the action, Hoffenheim also have a chance to get themselves near the top. We will have to look collect as many points as we can over the next few games. Where we will be at the end of this, I don’t know. We have some tough games left, it would be incredible if we did manage to stay in this position. However, I think from evidence of other years if we can end up in this area of the league table we can consider it a real success.”