West Ham and Rangers are on the brink of making history as they attempt to set up a first-ever European final between an England and a Scottish side.
The two clubs hope to meet in Seville next month for the Europa League final on May 18.
But two German teams stand in the way of this historic event, as the semi-finals see Eintracht Frankfurt take on West Ham and RB Leipzig play rangers.
Europa League semi-finals
- Thursday: First game – West Ham vs Frankfurt & RB Leipzig vs Rangers
- May 5: Second leg – Frankfurt vs West Ham & Rangers vs RB Leipzig
air sports talk to Air in Germany reporter from Frankfurt Dennis Bayer and Air in Germany RB Leipzig reporter Philip Hinze to give us the details of the two Bundesliga sides and find out if they will stop an all-British final in Spain…
How important is the Europa League for these two sides?
DB: Frankfurt is as excited as you can be. The competition is done for them. They’re in ninth, so they can’t go up or down. It means they are laying all their eggs in the Europa League basket.
They’re not focusing on the league now, they’re just focusing on the Europa League and that’s their cup to win and their chance to get to the Champions League, so they’ll be fully focused on betting everything against West Ham .
Frankfurt fans love it too. They go all in with their team, they travel with them all over Europe like we saw in Barcelona. A lot of people will go to London without a ticket so I think they go there and have fun and want their team to win.
pH: RB Leipzig is also enthusiastic. It’s a semi-final against Rangers, a big club with a huge fan base. But it is difficult to estimate how important the Europa League is for them.
They are in the German Cup final this season and since they have already lost two finals (2019 and 2021), I think they should win it this year against Freiburg.
I think the German Cup and the Europa League are on the same level, but they also have to qualify for the Champions League through the Bundesliga, and it’s very close for the top four there.
Leipzig is fourth, but surprisingly lost to Union Berlin on Saturday, ending their 15-game unbeaten run. So I think you can’t prioritize any of the leagues – it’s all balanced for them at the moment.
How big are these two clubs in Germany?
DB: It depends how you look at it for Frankfurt. In a sporting sense they are not that big – they are a bit of a mediocre club here – but in terms of fans they are one of the biggest clubs in Germany.
You have Bayern Munich, you have Borussia Dortmund and then Frankfurt would be number three in terms of fans.
They are definitely one of the most impressive and emotional fan bases in Germany, in both a good and a bad way.
pH: Frankfurt is great, but Leipzig is a bit different. The club was only founded in 2009 while Frankfurt has been around for more than 100 years.
It’s a very family oriented fan base in Leipzig, so parents with their kids come to the stadium, while Frankfurt has a lot of ultras and hooligans. It’s also loud in the Leipzig stadium, but you can’t compare it to Frankfurt or Rangers.
I think neutral German fans will support Frankfurt more than Leipzig in these semi-finals. German fans are big traditionalists. Red Bull’s involvement with Leipzig is a big concern and they hate it, so I think a lot of Germans will hope Rangers make it to the final.
Are there concerns that there could be problems between Frankfurt and West Ham after the clashes in Seville?
DB: Yes I think so. That’s what I meant when I said Frankfurt is emotional in good and bad ways.
They can have aggressive fans and they have some huge ultra groups – they’re not hooligans, but they can be aggressive. I’m afraid there could be problems like in Seville if provoked.
There could also be a problem with Frankfurt fans in the home game, such as against Barcelona, but West Ham have a policy of stopping this.
Which players pose the biggest threat to British clubs?
DB: I think the most dangerous player for Frankfurt would be Filip Kostic† He is their go-to man: a left winger, he is very strong, makes dangerous crosses, is a great dribbler and has a lot of speed. He was also the man of the match against Barcelona – he is the one to watch.
Another player to watch out for is the defensive midfielder Djibril Sowwho is very calm and makes very smart decisions.
And the other man to watch is centre-back Martin Hinteregger† He is a fan favorite; they call themselves the ‘Hinty Army’! Every time he wins a tackle or clears the ball, you hear those ‘Hinty, Hinty’ calls from the stands. He’s not the best player with the ball at his feet, but he’s a tough tackler and a very aggressive defender.
pH: Leipzig’s biggest threat is of course Christopher Nkunku† He has scored 30 goals in all competitions this season and is a very dangerous player.
He can create from any situation, be it goals or assists. He is very skilled and very fast and is a player who will play for a bigger club than Leipzig in the future.
In the midfield there is Dani Olmo and Konrad Laimerand defensive Josko Gvardiol is a very good central defender and maybe one for Chelsea this summer.
In front, André Silva is okay, but Nkunku, Olmo and Laimer are the biggest threats.
Could Nkunku move to the PL this summer?
Christopher Nkunku is reportedly a target for both Manchester United and Liverpool this summer, so could he move to the Premier League at the end of the season?
Philipp Hinze, RB Leipzig’s German reporter, told Sky Sports: “I think they would like to extend his contract and then add a waiver clause of around £54.8million (€65million) which will then expire at the end of the year. can be activated next season.
“Leipzig want to challenge Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga next season, then they will sell Nkunku for the break clause.
“But if clubs want to buy him this summer they will have to put a lot of money on the table. He doesn’t have an escape clause at the moment so I think he would cost around £80m (€95m) this summer.
“I think he will sign this new contract and leave Leipzig in 2023.”
What weaknesses can West Ham and Rangers exploit?
DB: Frankfurt is not the best at defending against fast attacks because they don’t have the fastest players defensively. If you can work around their press and pass the ball quickly, then you have a chance.
mid back Evan Ndicka has also been banned from the first leg after being sent off against Barcelona and will be a huge miss. He is a central part of their defense as he is a very smart player but also a tough and reliable defender.
pH: I think Rangers’ biggest threat to Leipzig is their physicality. For me Scottish football is very physical with lots of long balls and headers.
Leipzig will also face the second leg in Glasgow, where the fans at Ibrox and the atmosphere will be challenging. It was incredible there before the Dortmund game.
Will it be an all-German Europa League final?
DB: I think it’s a 50/50 game between Frankfurt and West Ham. It will be physical and it will be a draw where you cannot make many mistakes.
But as a German I have to say that Frankfurt is going to beat West Ham and make it to the final in Seville.
pH: It all depends on the game in Glasgow for Leipzig. The atmosphere at Ibrox makes it a dangerous second leg, so they have to be good in the home game. If they can win 2-0 or 3-0 in the first leg, they are well prepared for the decisive second leg.
But I think this draw is very difficult for Rangers because Leipzig football will be too fast for them, so I think Leipzig will go to the final.
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