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The Scottish side have done brilliantly to reach the final but this could be a bridge too far.
Back Eintracht Frankfurt to beat Rangers
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Eintracht Frankfurt have won the Europa League once before: they triumphed in 1980, beating fellow German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach on away goals in the final.
More recently, they reached the semi-finals three years ago but were knocked out on penalties by the eventual winners Chelsea. Now, they are in their first continental final since that triumph 44 years ago.
Frankfurt have not had a straightforward run to the showpiece in Seville. They went unbeaten in the group phase, topping their section ahead of Olympiacos, Fenerbahce and Antwerp. In the round of 16 they overcame Real Betis, before their most impressive feat of the campaign: eliminating Barcelona, the overwhelming favorites to win the tournament, in the quarter-finals.
Oliver Glasner’s side then booked their place in the final by beating West Ham United in the semis.
Frankfurt have still not lost a single match in the Europa League this season. Their form in the Bundesliga has tailed off of late: they ended the domestic campaign without a win in eight matches, dropping from ninth place to 11th. That, however, was in large part due to Frankfurt switching their attention to Europe. Their eggs have been placed in the basket marked ‘Europa League’ for a while now.
Frankfurt are therefore the favorites to win Wednesday’s final. Amid that aforementioned winless streak in the Bundesliga, Glasner’s charges beat West Ham home and away in the last four. They have scored in 100 per cent of their 12 Europa League contests to date. And, player for player, they probably have a stronger side than Rangers. That is not always the decisive factor in soccer, of course, but Frankfurt will be quietly confident of victory in Spain.
The coronavirus pandemic demonstrated to everyone how big a role crowds can play. If you go to watch a movie at the cinema, the plot is the same regardless of how the audience reacts. That is not the case in soccer. The spectators can have a direct effect on the result. Anyone who doubts that has not seen Rangers play a European match in front of their own supporters in Glasgow.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side probably would not have made it to the final without the Ibrox factor. The 123-year-old stadium is famed for the febrile atmosphere it creates, especially under the floodlights in evening matches. The raucous crowd helped Rangers overturn first-leg deficits to beat Braga and RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
The Gers failed to retain the Scottish Premiership title this term. They started the season strongly, while Celtic took a while to get going under their new manager Ange Postecoglou.
However, Rangers dropped too many points in the second half of the campaign, including against Aberdeen, Ross County, Dundee United and Motherwell. Still, reaching a European final means this has been a successful campaign for Rangers.
Winning on Wednesday would make it one of the best in their history.
There are two reasons why this could be a tight encounter. The first is tactical. Frankfurt and Rangers have tended to prefer their opponents to have the ball in this competition; of the 40 teams that participated in the knockout phase, they rank 20th and 24th for possession. Both prefer to attack on the counter and in transition. That means we could see Rangers and Frankfurt try and leave the ball to the other team, especially in the first half.
The other reason is the nature of the match. European finals are often low-scoring affairs because the stakes are so high (although, curiously, this is more the case for the Champions League than the Europa League). Even so, Frankfurt and Rangers will both be determined not to make any errors, and that could lead to a slow burner of a match.
For those reasons, we did consider under 2.5 goals – but on balance the best bet is Frankfurt to win. Rangers have done brilliantly to get this far, but the fact this match is taking place at a neutral venue should help Glasner’s side more than Van Bronckhorst’s.
After all, Frankfurt have won five of their six European matches away from their home stadium, compared to one in seven for Rangers. They also have more game-changing players in their ranks, while their counter-attacking prowess will no doubt come into play if they can grab the first goal of the game. Go for Frankfurt to beat Rangers in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
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|Eintracht Frankfurt vs Rangers Information|
|Teams||Eintracht Frankfurt vs Rangers|
|Location||Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville, Spain|
|Time||Wednesday, 18 May 2022, 3.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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