Europa League semifinals: British and German sides remain

The trophy is displayed ahead of the draw for the 2022 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, on March 18, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
The trophy is displayed ahead of the draw for the 2022 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final at the UEFA headquarters, in Nyon, on March 18, 2022. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) /
Eintracht Frankfurt players celebrate after their UEFA Europa League match against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou on April 14, 2022. (Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Eintracht Frankfurt players celebrate after their UEFA Europa League match against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou on April 14, 2022. (Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Europa League semifinals pits German sides against British sides

The UEFA Europa League semifinals are upon us, with a pair of British-based sides and two German teams remaining in this season’s competition. The next two Thursdays will see RB Leipzig, Rangers, Eintracht Frankfurt and West Ham go at it to see who will reach the final in Seville come the end of May.

My lack of success in calling matches in the Europa League continues, as only Leipzig’s progression was correct according to my predictions last time out. Let’s see if I can get the semifinals (and the final) correct.

Here is a preview of the ties and  my predictions.

RB Leipzig vs Rangers

Two seasons after reaching this stage in the Champions League, Domenico Tedesco’s Leipzig will battle a Rangers side at this point for the first time in the Europa League era. One of the new kids on the block against a household name with trophies aplenty.

Weekend defeat at home to Union Berlin halted a 15-game unbeaten series for Leipzig. In fact, it was just Red Bull’s second reverse this calendar year, also beaten by Bayern at the start of February. Fourth in the Bundesliga with three games remaining, a double is still achievable for Leipzig, who will face Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal final in a few weeks time. In between the Rangers ties, Tedesco’s men will go to Borussia Park to face Monchengladbach.

As for their European campaign, Leipzig initially started in the Champions League at the group phase. After a slow start, wins against Club Brugge and Manchester City in their final matches allowed them to finish third, dropping to the Europa League knockout round. Defeat of Real Sociedad along with a bye in the round of 16 saw them take on fellow Champions League dropouts Atalanta. Finishing level at home, it was two Christopher Nkunku goals that saw them past La Dea.

Kevin Kampl, Willi Orban, and Mohamad Simakan are all suspended for the first leg due to yellow card accumulation, with Amadou Haidara and Lukas Klostermann both out for Die Roten Bullen.

Rangers are heading into Thursday night’s first leg on the back of a four-game winning streak, including their extra time defeat of Sporting Braga in the quarterfinals. An Old Firm derby success in the Scottish Cup semifinals set up a date against Hearts for The Gers, already guaranteed a top two finish in the Premiership. They will have divided attention over the two legs, as their league match will see Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men face Celtic once again. A defeat there will all but secure their foes the league title.

Falling out of the Champions League in the qualifying round, the 2007/08 UEFA Cup finalists made the Europa League group stages following a narrow defeat over Armenian champions Alashkert in the playoffs. Finishing second to Lyon in their group, they shocked Borussia Dortmund in the knockout playoffs before taking out Crvena zvezda in the last 16. As mentioned, they overturned a first leg deficit in their most recent assignment, ending Sporting Braga’s European campaign in extra time.

Talisman Alfredo Morelos is out for The Gers, which is a significant loss up front. Filip Helander and Nnamdi Ofoborh also miss out through injury. There are no suspensions to note for the Scottish champions.

Rangers have already showed their mettle throughout this season’s Europa League, particularly with their elimination of Borussia Dortmund. That said, Leipzig are in red hot form, despite the weekend loss. I expect them to come out with a point to prove on Thursday night, which will be difficult to overcome from a Rangers perspective. The German side may have more on the line domestically as they aim to secure a top four place, but I think they will move on.

West Ham United vs Eintracht Frankfurt

In their first season in the Europa League proper, West Ham has a semifinal date with Eintracht Frankfurt, who return to this stage three years after falling to Chelsea on penalties in this very round.

The Hammers have continued on from last season, finding themselves in a race for the European places in the Premier League. They currently hold on to the Europa Conference League place, but with just one win in five in all competitions, they will hope to find some form with only a few games left in the season.

David Moyes’ Irons kicked off their European campaign at the group stage, dominating a group featuring European regulars in Dinamo Zagreb, Racing Genk, and Rapid Wien. Finishing top of their group, West Ham pulled off two massive results, eliminating the record champions of this tournament Sevilla in the round of 16. That led to a defeat of Olympique Lyon in the quarterfinals. They are 180 minutes away from a return to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán for the final.

Injuries at the back plague The Hammers, with Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma all out. They have no suspensions heading into the first leg.

Frankfurt has another lengthy Europa League campaign to consider a success in what has otherwise been an underwhelming season. Their second leg win at the Camp Nou is their only win since mid-March. Ninth in the Bundesliga, they will only return to Europe next season by lifting the trophy in Seville. A trip to the BayArena on Sunday to face Champions League hopefuls Bayer Leverkusen will be sandwiched between the two legs against West Ham.

Die Adler also won their Europa League group, going unbeaten in a group of Olympiakos Piraeus, Fenerbahçe, and Royal Antwerp. Real Betis was the next team to fall  before what could be argued as the biggest upset of the tournament. An unthinkable win in Barcelona in the quarterfinals brings them to this stage. They have the best European record (from the group stage on) of the teams left, still having yet to lose so far.

Obite N’Dicka and Kristijan Jakic are both suspended for Die Adler, both suspended after the quarterfinals. Diant Ramaj is also out with a knee injury, Christopher Lenz and Stefan Ilsanker are doubts for the first match.

Like the other semifinal, there is one team that clearly has the advantage as they can put their full focus on the two legs. That of course is Frankfurt, with very little to play for in the Bundesliga. Both teams have had very similar European runs, winning their groups and pulling off sizable upsets in the knockout rounds to get this far. Keeping their respective league situations, I favor Frankfurt here. They have a lot more on the line if they are to get back into Europe next season, so they will have to go all out to assure themselves continental football.

A reminder that the winner of the Europa League will enter next season’s Champions League in September. Should the Europa League winner finish in a Champions League (group stage) place via their league (only applicable to Leipzig), the extra place will go to the third place team in France, currently occupied by Rennes.

Furthermore, if the winner finishes in a Europa League slot via their league (and/or win their domestic cup), the country they come from will have one less team in Europe’s second tier competition than the initial two. Note that this only applies to West Ham and Leipzig . The Europa League group stage place vacated in this case would then go to the cup winner (or third-place team) from the Netherlands, likely to be either PSV or Feyenoord.

If Leipzig or West Ham win the Europa League and end up in a Europa Conference League place via the Bundesliga and Premier League respectively, the league in question will not have representation in Europe’s third tier tournament to start off next season. This happened last year with Villarreal.

Next. Man City edges Madrid 4-3 in Champions League thriller. dark

Both semifinals will kick off at 21:00 CET for the two legs over the next two Thursdays. A first-time winner of this trophy in the Europa League era will be guaranteed. Will we see an all-German final? All-British? Time will tell, with four games left to determine the finalists.