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Not a single soul has faced Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League this term and come out on the winning side. Not Real Betis, not West Ham United, and not even Barcelona have been able to match the superiority of Oliver Glasner‘s side in the 2021-22 tournament.
After ending the hopes of tournament favourites La Blaugrana, Frankfurt made their trip to the English capital worthwhile by claiming a 2-1 semi-final first-leg success over West Ham before completing a famous European endeavour at the Deutsche Bank Park.
With Aaron Cresswell made to take the walk of shame in the 16th minute and David Moyes soon made to follow suit, Rafael Borre‘s third goal of the tournament sealed a 3-1 aggregate success over the Hammers and presented his side with a chance to end a 42-year-long drought in Europe.
In its current format, Frankfurt had only made it as far as the semi-finals in the Europa League before being eliminated by eventual winners Chelsea in 2018-19, but during its UEFA Cup days, Die Adler saw off German counterparts Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1980 final over two legs for their only continental crown to date.
The dream of back-to-back Scottish Premiership titles did not materialise for Van Bronckhorst’s side, but Hearts also await them in the final of the Scottish Cup next weekend, and their dress rehearsal for that showpiece event certainly went according to the script as far as the Gers faithful are concerned.
Indeed, Rangers enter their two finals having eased to a 3-1 win over Robbie Neilson’s side at the weekend – doing so with a much-changed XI – and that triumph represents their fourth win on the bounce in all competitions.
Van Bronckhorst has also witnessed his side notch up at least two goals in all of those encounters – but only one clean sheet in their last nine may concern him slightly – and unlike Frankfurt, Rangers have already been condemned to five defeats in the 2021-22 Europa League.
That quintet of losses has not stopped the Rangers juggernaut, though, and the prospect of becoming the first-ever Scottish side to win the Europa League is one that Van Bronckhorst’s history-making side will have no intention of passing up.
Rangers may have lost 10 of their 14 European games on Spanish soil so far, but Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund have both been sent packing by the 55-time Scottish champions in this season’s Europa League, and Frankfurt would do well to ask for some pointers from their Bundesliga neighbours to avoid suffering the same fate on the big occasion.
Hit with a major defensive absentee in the semi-final second leg against West Ham, Frankfurt lost Martin Hinteregger to a seventh-minute hamstring problem – one which is expected to keep him sidelined for a couple of months.
Hearts were also in mouths when Evan Ndicka was brought off with an apparent muscular issue in the recent draw with Mainz, although the 22-year-old’s withdrawal was reported to have been a precautionary measure.
As a result, Ndicka should be fine to line up in Frankfurt’s 3-4-2-1 in Seville, where Glasner will certainly be without the services of Diant Ramaj, but Jesper Lindstrom and Danny da Costa are fighting to feature.
Almamy Toure should join Ndicka and Tuta at the back to cover for the injured Hinteregger, and a settled XI will also see wing kings Ansgar Knauff and Filip Kostic bomb down the flanks for the German side.
Daichi Kamada was on target for Frankfurt in their semi-final success over West Ham, and the creative hub – who has five goals in the tournament – is out to become the first-ever Japanese player to score in a major European final this week.
Meanwhile, thoughts will be spared for Rangers duo Filip Helander and Alfredo Morelos as they take their place on the sidelines due to injury, while Ianis Hagi recently teased a comeback but is not registered to play.
Kemar Roofe is pushing extremely hard to be involved, and Van Bronckhorst – who made no fewer than 10 changes at the weekend – has announced that the striker will be ready to play in the final.
Joe Aribo and Ryan Jack both left the field with injuries in the second leg against Leipzig but will expect to be fine for the final, as Van Bronckhorst prepares to recall all of his big guns to the first XI.
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Allan McGregor and his 40-year-old legs will return in between the sticks, while defensive stalwarts such as top scorer Tavernier, Calvin Bassey and Connor Goldson will all protect the veteran in Seville.
Ryan Kent, Scott Wright and Borna Barisic were also spared at the weekend with the Europa League final in mind, as the likes of Fashion Sakala and Amad Diallo aim to make an impact from the bench for the Scottish giants.
Eintracht Frankfurt possible starting lineup:
Trapp; Toure, Ndicka, Tuta; Knauff, Sow, Rode, Kostic; Kamada, Hauge; Borre
Rangers possible starting lineup:
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic; Kamara, Lundstram, Jack; Kent, Aribo, Wright