Hammers host giant killer Frankfurt in UEFA Europa League semis

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Giant killer Eintracht Frankfurt visits Premier League’s West Ham while RB Leipzig hosts Scottish heavyweight Rangers in the UEFA Europa League semifinals first-leg matches Thursday.

Roma, in the meantime, will travel to Leicester City and Feyenoord hosts Marseille in the newly launched third-tier Europa Conference League semis.

Frankfurt expects thousands of German fans to travel again in the hope of inspiring another away victory, like the shock win at Barcelona.

Around 30,000 Eintracht fans managed to get tickets for the second leg of their quarterfinal at Camp Nou, roaring the German club to a stunning 3-2 win at Barcelona to seal a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Visiting Frankfurt fans have been allocated 5,000 tickets for the game at West Ham’s London Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000, but the German club expects tens of thousands of fans to make the journey.

“I am absolutely sure there will be more than 5,000 in the city,” Eintracht CEO Axel Hellmann told AFP.

“Our fans like to travel and support their team abroad – that’s why we brought 15,000 to Inter Milan” for the last-16 tie in 2019. Frankfurt reached the semifinals that year before losing to Chelsea on penalties.

“30,000 at Barcelona was absolutely the peak of our club history’s going abroad. It’s part of our DNA.”

Under Austrian coach Oliver Glasner, Frankfurt has struggled at times in the Bundesliga this season, saving its best performances for Europe.

Its fans are desperate to reach the final in Seville on May 18 for the chance of silverware.

RB Leipzig, in the meantime, must prepare for a physical battle against Scottish champions Rangers, manager Domenico Tedesco said Wednesday.

Leipzig stormed to the last four on the back of a superb 3-1 aggregate win over Italian side Atalanta, thanks to a brace by Christopher Nkunku in the quarterfinal second leg, which sealed a 2-0 victory.

Tedesco said his team can expect a tough test on Thursday against a side that sent its German rival Borussia Dortmund crashing in the knockout round playoffs with a 6-4 aggregate victory.

“Rangers threw Dortmund out of the competition and that says a lot,” Tedesco told a news conference. “We know how strong this team is. They are a very physically strong team that, if they put their mind to it, can beat any opponent.

Leipzig has reached its second European semifinal in the last three seasons.

The German side’s previous UEFA competition semifinal was in the Champions League in 2019-20, when it was defeated 3-0 by eventual runner-up Paris Saint-Germain.

Rangers have made it to the last four for the first time since 2007-08 when the Glasgow side finished as runner-up in the Europa League, then known as the UEFA Cup.

Roma faces tough test

Jose Mourinho returns to England on Thursday on a wave of enthusiasm as upbeat Roma prepares for its third European semifinal in five seasons with fans firmly behind their charismatic manager.

Defeat on Saturday at Italian champion Inter, however, ended a 12-match unbeaten run in Serie A and fifth-placed Roma’s outside hopes of reaching the Champions League.

It was outclassed at the San Siro by a superior team who is heavily fancied to retain its league title but the 3-1 loss failed to end the positive vibes in Rome ahead of Thursday’s trip to Leicester for the first leg of its European Conference League semi.

Fans have been packing the Stadio Olimpico for recent matches with more than 65,000 attending wins over Salernitana and Bodo/Glimt and 1,600 will be in fine voice at the King Power Stadium hoping that their team ends an England hoodoo.

Roma has won just one of its 22 matches played in England, at Anfield way back in 2001 with Fabio Cappello at the helm for a 2-1 aggregate UEFA Cup defeat to Liverpool, and have taken some heavy beatings from Premier League sides down the years.

Under Mourinho, Roma looks more solid than it did under predecessor Paulo Fonseca and he has managed to create cohesion between the team and a notoriously volatile fan base that last saw their team win a trophy in 2008.

“He’s instilled in everyone the idea of never giving up, staying on it and coming together to get results,” starlet Nicolo Zaniolo said in an interview with UEFA.

“We have a coach who knows what it takes to win, I think we’ve got a chance.”


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