Eintracht Frankfurt took down Barcelona, West Ham United and Glasgow Rangers en route to winning last season’s UEFA Europa League. bundesliga.com makes their case for adding UEFA Champions League Group D rivals Tottenham Hotspur to their list of continental scalps – even without the injured Mario Götze…
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1) The Main man from Japan
Frankfurt’s 2021/22 Europa League winners inevitably attracted outside interest, with Daichi Kamada among those linked with a move away. Reported overtures from across Europe fell on deaf ears, though, and the Eagles are reaping the rewards.
Four goals and three assists in just seven Bundesliga appearances so far in 2022/23 – accompanied by some magnificent all-round play – underline Kamada’s importance to the cause. He also scored his sixth international goal in Japan’s 2-0 win over the USA during the September international break.
That Kamada is playing such a central role following Frankfurt’s pre-season recruitment drive speaks volumes. The 26-year-old is thriving as the team’s playmaker alongside summer signing Götze – he of 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning fame – and has struck up a telepathic understanding with freshly minted France international forward Randal Kolo Muani. After eight rounds of fixtures, the Kamada-Muani double act has directly contributed to 13 of Eintracht’s 16 Bundesliga goals.
Watch: Randal Kolo Muani and Daichi Kamada – Frankfurt’s deadly duo
2) Smells like Team Spirit
Stopping Kamada is only a fraction of the problem for visiting Spurs.
When Barcelona rocked up for their Europa League quarter-final last April, Xavi Hernandez spoke of his “great admiration and respect” for Frankfurt’s on-field togetherness. That effusive praise must have been tinged with envy upon conclusion of the tie as Eintracht prevailed 4-3 on aggregate, despite averaging roughly 30 percent possession over the two legs.
“You can win trophies by spending a lot of money, or you can win trophies by building unity,” explained Eintracht counterpart Oliver Glasner of the co-operative and synergistic philosophy that translated into an unbeaten Europe League campaign and the club’s second major European trophy.
Frankfurt’s collective spirit continues to bear fruit. Kolo Muani is the Bundesliga’s league-leading provider with five assists to go with his two goals; Götze is top dog for intensive runs (705); and only record champions Bayern Munich boast a greater spread of different goalscorers (10 to Eintracht’s nine).
Even with Götze out of the equation, there’s still Kamada, Jesper Lindstrom and 2021/22 Europa League Young Player of the Tournament Ansgar Knauff for Spurs to deal with. If Kolo Muani has a rare off day, Rafael Santos Borre – the scorer of the equalising goal and winning penalty in the Europa League final against Rangers – is waiting in the wings.
And should Tottenham find joy at the other end, they’ll have to get past Kevin Trapp. Frankfurt to the bone, the Germany international – who ranked second for most saves in last season’s Europa League and put in a customary star turn in the final – recently turned down an offer from Manchester United to continue his love affair with Die Adler.
“Manchester United is a club that’s famous around the world, and I hope everyone can understand that I engaged with such an offer and thought about it,” he reasoned in an Instagram post. “But I told the managements of both clubs yesterday that I’ve opted for Eintracht. I’ve had unforgettable experiences here with Frankfurt and we’ve made history together.”
3) Tactical flexibility
Trapp is the rock-solid foundation on which Glasner has been able to build a highly aggressive and malleable formation. The Frankfurt mastermind has a habit of switching between 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-2-1 systems, but also the nous to match opposition teams like for like.
It’s a ploy that has caused Tottenham problems in domestic action already this season, and might just prove their undoing in Frankfurt. A hybrid 4-2-2-2/3-4-3 – which Frankfurt are no strangers to – would enable the likes of Kamada, Djibril Sow and Sebastian Rode to overwhelm a midfield pairing of former Bayern man Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and either Yves Bissouma or Rodrigo Bentancur.
The pace of Knauff and Lindstrom in the wide areas, meanwhile, facilitates the kind of mid-game tactical switch that caused Antonio Conte’s side so much trouble in their 2-2 draw with Chelsea earlier this season. Whatever Conte throws at Frankfurt, Glasner will have an answer.
4) Form favours the Eagles
Tottenham lined up a in 3-4-3 formation in their North London derby loss to Arsenal at the weekend. Over in Germany, Frankfurt dismantled Union Berlin to inflict a first Bundesliga defeat of the season on the surprise league leaders.
Spurs have now lost two of their last three, while Frankfurt are enjoying a three-game winning streak that also includes a momentous away win in the uncomfortable surroundings of Marseille on Champions League Matchday 2. What’s more, they’re joint top of the Bundesliga form table, with four wins from their last six. You do the math…
Watch: Highlights of Frankfurt’s 2-0 win over Union Berlin
5) Fortress Frankfurt
Eintracht’s frankly stupendous European home record only adds to the weight of the task facing visiting Tottenham. Frankfurt have contested 95 European fixtures in their own back yard, losing just 12. Defeat on their Champions League debut to Sporting Lisbon was a rare blot to the copybook.
Positive results over Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham in last term’s Europa League knockout rounds are evidence enough of Frankfurt’s ability to handle the pressure. They also beat Spurs 2-1 in the home leg of the their only previous tie, in the 1981/82 Cup Winners’ Cup
Although results from 40 years ago are unlikely to have great bearing on the latest clash, Frankfurt can always rely on something spiritual in continental competition, where a club of their stature rightly belongs. Why should Tuesday’s fixture be any different?