Around the time I became “football aware”, Eintracht Frankfurt were an emerging power in German football (re-emerging, as I later found out).
They had just won the German cup (DFB Pokal) thanks to a goal — from a free kick, of course — scored by the greatest Hungarian player of his generation (if not multiple generations), Lajos Détári, still the last player to score at a World Cup for the once dominant football nation, back in 1986. And while Détári would leave the club that summer for a reported £6m transfer fee, which matched Ruud Gullit’s world record move from PSV to AC Milan a year prior, Frankfurt were only getting started.
Eintracht, who were known at the time as “Die Launische Diva” (“Moody Diva”) thanks to their habit of playing up or down to the level of their opposition, would finish third three times in four seasons in the early ‘90s, reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup, and feature such superstars as Andreas Möller, Tony Yeboah, and Jay-Jay Okocha. To this day they’re one of the first teams I associate with German football, even though they’ve taken a few hits along the way, including multiple detours into the second division in the last 20-25 years.
But this season, that’s actually true. They’re on course to finish fourth in the league — their highest finish since one of those third places, in 1992-93 — and they’re the defending Cup champions once again, winning it last season for the first time since the aforementioned 1988 triumph. They play a high octane style, they have one of Europe’s most coveted players, striker Luka Jović, and are the second highest scoring team in the Europa League.
This will not be easy.
Date / Time: Thursday, May 2, 2019, 20:00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande — from the Spanish league, a new name for Chelsea (and for Frankfurt as well).
Forecast: A sunny spring day with a bit of precipitation possible late
On TV: BT Sport 3 (UK); Univision Deportes (USA); SONY TEN (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live (USA); SONY LIV (India)
Eintracht Frankfurt team news: Eintracht have not had the greatest of Aprils, winning just one of their last five games in all competitions. A big reason for that has been the injury to Sebastian Haller, who may be out for the rest of the season with an abdominal strain. Another forward, Ante Rebić is suspended for this one, which should blunt their attack even more.
But considering that this is their first European semifinal since winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, they (and their typically raucous fans) will be more than up for it.
Chelsea team news: Chelsea are also without a couple key players in Antonio Rüdiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi, but we do have Olivier Giroud, the Europa League’s leading goalscorer — 10, two more than Jović — and of course Eden Hazard hopefully ready to bring their A-game.
Chelsea matched the all-time Europa League record with 15 in a row unbeaten (stretching back to 2012-13) in the last round. We’ve won 11 of 12 games in this year’s competition, drawing just the once against Vidi FC in Hungary. While the Blues have struggled mightily away from home in the league, that hasn’t been the case in Europe, so hopefully that trend continues.