The final of the Europa League takes centre stage tonight. And to be fair, not many would have predicted these finalists. Put simpler, Frankfurt and Rangers have made it here as dark horses, against all odds.
And if Sevilla (the most successful team in this competition) had somehow managed to sneak themselves in from the Champions League, they couldn’t qualify. Ironically, now, the final will hold at their stadium, but they will not be there.
In its current format, Frankfurt and Rangers would look to win their first Europa League title. Particularly, Frankfurt certainly see this as their only route to the UCL next season.
It is delicately poised. There is plenty of excitement in store as both teams battle to win Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Frankfurt’s Road To The Final
While unexpected, the journey has been rather smooth for the Bundesliga side. After 12 matches, they are yet to lose a single game. If anything, they took out some of the “top sides” in emphatic fashion.
Frankfurt finished top of Group D; one that included Olympiacos Fenerbahce and Antwerp. Oliver Glasner’s man garnered 12 points (three wins and three draws) to advance to the knockouts.
Die Adler managed a 3-2 aggregate win against Real Betis in the round of 16 before defeating tournament favourites, Barcelona 4-3 in the quarterfinals.
Even more notable was the fact that the semi-final ticket was earned at the Camp Nou, turning the ground into their home- figuratively and literally. The Germans somehow got more tickets than were allocated, creating an intimidating away atmosphere.
Against West Ham, in the semi-final, they did enough to win both home and away. Aaron Creswell was sent off before the opening half-hour at the London stadium.
Rangers’ Journey To Gdansk
The Scottish giants had anything but a smooth ride en route to the final. In fact, they have lost five matches in this season’s Europa League.
They finished group A with eight points, precisely half of Lyon’s tally. This meant that they had to play a Round of 32 tie against a demoted Borussia Dortmund. And yet, against the odds, they edged past the Black and Yellow 6-4 on aggregate.
They edged out Crvena Zvezda 4-2 in the Round of 16. They overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Braga to win 3-2 in the quarter-final.
With a similar scoreline, in the same manner, as the quarter-final, Giovanni Van Bronchorst’s men defeated RB Leipzig to move to the final.
What To Expect
Frankfurt has just the Europa League as not just their only means of winning a silverware but salvaging a horrible campaign. They drew their final league game of the season against Mainz.
Rangers, on the other hand, have the opportunity of winning a double having qualified for the final of the Scottish Cup.
Joe Aribo, once again, has been sensational for the Gers alongside fellow International, Calvin Bassey. Van Bronkhorst will be counting on their performances once again.
The objective will be a bit more straightforward: soak up the pressure against a free-flowing Frankfurt side. Scott Wright will need to be clinical on the night.
Frankfurt has shown two sides this season. Glasner will be hopeful that their ‘European side’ will be on show in Spain.
Flip Kostic and Ansgar Knauff have been exciting so far with Sebastian Rode dictating the play from midfield. In other words, the wings have been their most potent outlets. It is fair to expect the same once again.
They will look to pass the ball quicker, encouraging overloads and spamming diagonal passes to opposite wings.
Frankfurt seem like slight favourites. However, the Scots have shown to be able to grind out results. A close win for Frankfurt is on the cards.