Bet of the Day: Eintracht Frankfurt edge out Chelsea in Europa League

14th September 2021

The first two nights of European football this week have been traumatic for people who want the English teams to compete for the top continental honours. In the Champions League, Tottenham were beaten at home by an Ajax side that brings back memories of the great Dutch teams, while Liverpool will need to beat Barcelona by four goals – or three, and a penalty shoot-out – to progress to the final. This evening, we move on to the Europa League – both semi-finals include London sides, and the first legs kick off at 8pm.

In Islington, Arsenal will be facing Valencia and trying not to concede three goals in a game for a fourth consecutive outing. We, however, are focusing on the game taking place in Germany which will bring Mauricio Sarri’s Chelsea – currently fourth in the Premier League – face to face with the side that occupy the same spot in the Bundesliga. Eintracht Frankfurt, for it is they, have a similar conundrum to the Blues. Unsure of Champions League qualification via the league table, with a hungry chasing pack behind them, it would really help if they could gain entry to the Big Cup next season by winning the Europa League. As we’ll see tonight, that will be much easier said than done for both sides.

Neither side in excellent form

Much was made of how improved Manchester United looked on Sunday, when only a David de Gea goalkeeping error stopped the Red Devils condemning Chelsea to a costly defeat. Less was made of how easy Sarri’s side initially made it for United – it was the Blues’ third consecutive game without winning in the league, and in among those fixtures there was also a challenging 4-3 win over Slavia Prague in this competition.

Frankfurt, though, can take only limited reassurance from the poor form their opponents have been displaying – they themselves were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Hertha Berlin at the weekend, and have also failed to taste victory domestically in three games. With that said, their last European outing saw them overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit, beating Benfica 2-0 to draw the quarter-final tie 4-4 and progress on away goals. If either side can be called the “form team” here, it’s the Germans. They are Evens with 888sport to win at least one half in this game, and we’d take those odds.

Eintracht underestimated by the bookies?

A quick glance around the betting odds for this game – at least, on the UK betting sites – will show that Chelsea are favourites to come away from this trip to Southern Germany with then win. This provokes two immediate questions: “Really?” and “Why?”. Anyone who witnessed the Blues toiling across two legs against the markedly inferior Slavia Prague would have to agree that they don’t look like a team you’d back to win both legs of a semi-final in this competition, and that’s before you factor in the enforced absences of defender Antonio Rudiger and winger Willian.

Leverkusen, meanwhile, may have been shaky recently, but they do have home advantage and one of the most in-form young strikers in Europe in Luka Jovic. While we’d agree that Chelsea are probably (narrow) favourites to progress from this tie, they’re going to need the whole 180 minutes – and maybe an additional 30 – to do so. In fact, we’d back Frankfurt to overturn the odds tonight and to win, albeit with both teams scoring. That’s priced at 9/2 with Paddy Power – and with Eden Hazard a shining light in the otherwise unremarkable Chelsea team, it’s easy to see the visitors scoring and still losing.

First goal could be crucial

Chelsea’s unimpressive season has been attributed in almost all circles to the difficulty that the present squad has had in adopting Mauricio Sarri’s dogmatic approach to tactics. In almost all games, the Italian plays with a 4-3-3 formation, featuring Jorginho as a deep-lying playmaker, and with the wingers taking on much of the responsibility for scoring goals. It’s thrilling when it works, but is not an ideal approach when it comes to chasing a game. It also only really works with a mobile, ball-playing centre-forward, which Chelsea lack. This has led to the Blues finding themselves starting slowly all too often, and it’s not hard to see Leverkusen exposing that sluggishness.

Another issue for Sarri is that his preferred centre-back pairing is not available, and will not be again this season. In the absence of Rudiger, the often quixotic David Luiz will be partnered by Andreas Christensen, who’s shown limited capacity to be the “steady one” at the back. All of this will be music to the ears of home coach Adi Hutter, who can call upon Luka Jovic (23 goals in 29 league games) to exploit any moments of uncertainty in the Blues’ defence. MansionBet are offering odds of 21/4 on the 21-year-old Serbian international to open the scoring here, and with his compatriot Mijat Gacinovic supplying the killer passes, we’d fancy Jovic to break the deadlock.

Bets of the Day

Frankfurt win and BTTS (Paddy Power, 9/2); Jovic to score first (MansionBet, 21/4); Frankfurt to win at least one half (888, Evens)

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