Nicosia - Eintracht Frankfurt deserved the "rest" prescribed by coach Armin Veh after their 3-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia ensured they maintained their grip on top spot of UEFA Europa League Group F.
'Make the most of it'
The "rest" was also essential because the return flight from Cyprus only touched down at 6.20 AM in Frankfurt, a journey which came after their fifth game in 15 days, and ahead of a key Bundesliga tie against fellow Europa League participants SC Freiburg on Sunday afternoon.
If Frankfurt maintain their current European form then they will likely stroll into a place in the knockout rounds of the competition, a fact which comes as a surprise to Veh as much as anyone. “The team is inexperienced in European competition,” said the 52-year-old. “But they’ve been playing as if they’ve been involved at this level for years.”
Indeed, the achievement of winning 3-0 away against a team who reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 2011 was somewhat enhanced as the Frankfurt were without key men Alexander Meier, Pirmin Schwegler and Jan Rosenthal. Even the pre-match injury suffered by Stefan Aigner failed to knock the Eagles off-course. “We’re in a position now really to make the most of it,” said Marco Russ.
Their position at the top of Group F is somewhat tempered by the fact that Veh’s men lie in 13th-place in the Bundesliga, a fact which hasn’t escaped club chairman Heribert Bruchhagen. “In contrast to the Europa League, the Bundesliga is our bread-and-butter and there’ll be plenty of pressure,” said the 65-year-old who watched from the stands in Cyprus. “On Sunday we’ll see again just how much of a challenge the Bundesliga is.”
After a dominant all-round performance on Thursday night, stand-in captain Sebastian Jung knows that “in Freiburg it’ll be really touch and go, particularly away from home”. The 23-year-old right-back, whose side’s next Europa League tie is at home against second-placed Maccabi Tel-Aviv in three weeks time, added that “not only do we want to win, the return to Bundesliga action will allow us to take a deep breath”. After all, deep breathing is a requirement at higher altitudes.