All rise for Eintracht Frankfurt, the awesome Eagles flying the Bundesliga flag across Europe and lighting up the continent with their own brand of football that has taken Die Adler to the brink of UEFA Europa League success.
From Istanbul to Athens and from London to Spain, where they return again for an 18 May showpiece that revives memories of glories past for a special club and their band of super supporters who have followed Eintracht all the way in 2021/22.
The festivities off the pitch have matched the feel-good factor on it, but don't believe that the team from Mainhattan arrive to face Glasgow Rangers at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium on the fumes of good vibes alone. Immense hard work and some top tactical know-how have led Frankfurt to the edge of European glory for the first time in 42 years.
“I get the feeling that the whole of Germany support Eintracht in Europe," coach Oliver Glasner said recently. "There’s recognition for our performances, but it’s not about living in the past; we need to stay focused and play our game on the pitch," the tactician added firmly. But just what does that strategy look like and what are the numbers that explain its efficacy?
Eintracht have played 12 games in this season's Europa League to date, and have lost none, reaching the final after topping a section that contained Fenerbahce, Olympiacos and Antwerp, before advancing past Real Betis, Barcelona and then West Ham in the tournament's knockout stages. They are the competition's second-highest scorers with nine different players netting the team's current total of 20 goals.
The solid stats tell the tale of a team that likes to begin building from the back. Intelligent distribution by players such as Martin Hinteregger - who will sadly be missing from the final with a hamstring injury - or Evan N'Dicka in the form of incisive passes through the centre allow Eintracht to offer the first cut to opponents. Rapid midfield transitions then get Eintracht between the lines, or in the best case scenario, attacking the spaces behind opposing defenders.
Players with the pace, intelligence and quick-fire interplay of Daichi Kamada, Jesper Lindström, Ansgar Knauff and Rafael Borre keep their opponents guessing, especially when the teams Eintracht are facing imagine the sole threat will likely flow through assist king Filip Kostic down the left.
That said, even when the ball is distributed to the Serbian magician - 43 percent of Eintracht's attacks have come down the left this season, for example - the 29-year-old is still likely to deliver. He is the Europa League's top assist provider with five this season, while in the Bundesliga, the Serb has sent over a division high 180 crosses from open play.
"Our approach is clear," Glasner explained. "We want to cause problems for defences. Our strategy is to get forward and constantly keep them busy; it must involve causing problems to the opposition defence." Speaking after his team's semi-final, first-leg win away to West Ham United, Glasner said, "We came out of the dressing room, playing in front of 60,000 fans, and led after one minute because we got forward and played with courage. I’m proud that I get to work with such players."
Watch: A must-see Paciencia goal in Eintracht's latest Bundesliga outing
Another of Frankfurt's key assets has been their physicality and intensity in winning back possession. Die Adler are aggressive in the press, hounding opponents out of possession thanks to a tremendous work-rate. Their tally of 24,762 intensive runs is the second highest in the Bundesliga this season while they are also second in the division in terms of ground covered, Glasner's side clocking up 2,435 miles.
Indeed, Frankfurt came in from high praise from Barcelona coach, and former midfield general, Xavi Hernandez, during their run to the final. Eintracht put in memorable displays in both legs of the quarter-finals against the Catalan giants, but it was at the Camp Nou - where the visitors led 3-0, before eventually running out 3-2 winners - that Europe stood up and took note of the Eagles' aims of winning the tournament.
"Eintracht played to their strengths really well; they were tough, physical and very good in their own penalty box," Xavi explained after Barça bowed out.
"They play on the counter-attack and counter-press in a way I’ve only seen from a few teams in my career. We didn’t defend either well and were unable to stop them. Congratulations to Eintracht, they deserve to progress," the four-time UEFA Champions League winner concluded.
Coach Glasner echoed those sentiments, the Austrian saying, "We have to function as a team and can only win together. It's important that we support each other and are very disciplined in our covering. We’re at the upper end of the Bundesliga when it comes to physicality and intensity."
Defender, Tuta, meanwhile, spoke of the importance and responsibility each player has to try and win each and every direct battle with an opponent: "We need to express our ideas and our game plan out on the pitch and be ready to fight it out, with each player winning as many of his duels as possible."
Winning his own personal duels at the back has been goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, who has been ever present in the Europa League - for a total of 1,110 minutes - making 31 saves in the tournament to match the amount of Bundesliga appearances he has so far in 2021/22. The Germany international has also managed seven clean sheets in all competitions during the current campaign and has proved integral to his side's successful run in Europe.
"The coach mentioned 18 May at some point at the start of the season," Trapp said after Frankfurt had qualified for the final. "Now we’ve fulfilled this dream. We’re one match away from the title. We’ve done a lot to get where we are now; everyone who’s worked on it has earned it."
Now just one step away from glory, Eintracht will be hoping that by putting all of their tactical savvy and competition experience into play for one last game, they can emerge victorious and party like it's 1980 all over again.
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