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UEFA Europa League Preview: Semi Finals (1st Leg)


The 2021/22 UEFA Europa League’s 51st edition is in its penultimate chapter as the road to Sevilla enters its final stages. Four teams battle it out for the chance to play for the trophy in the 1st leg of the semi-finals. Rangers, Eintracht Frankfurt, and West Ham have weathered the full storm, while RB Leipzig entered the fray via the UEFA Champions League which sees them favourites to clinch the title. Who will take the first step in edging closer to lifting the UEFA Cup?

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Thursday 28 April

RB Leipzig 7/20
Draw 39/10
Rangers 13/2
(21:00)

RB Leipzig welcome Rangers to Germany this Thursday the 28th of April at the Red Bull Arena. The Bundesliga title charge has not fared well for Leipzig this season, but a first major title since they were founded in 2009 is still on the cards. While Rangers are in a similar boat having recently lost momentum due to their loss against Celtic for the Scottish Premiership title.

RB Leipzig

The Germans faced their first defeat in 16 fixtures across all competitions over the weekend. A 2-1 home defeat to Union Berlin is not one to even bother over, as The Red Bulls made wholesale changes in preparation for the Europa League.

Leizpig have been an unstoppable force since bowing out of the Champions League. Two hotly contested legs took place against Real Sociedad. The 2-2 home draw followed by a 1-3 away win in Spain earned The Red Bulls a quarter final spot. Their round of 16 draw was a walk over, as Spartak Moscow were blocked from participating, being a Russian based club. Finally, the quarter final ended 3-1 on aggregate to send Atalanta packing courtesy of a Christopher Nkunku brace in enemy territory.

Swede Emile Forsberg and Danish Yussuf Poulsen are the go-to guys in the final third, alongside Andre Silva, who makes up a front three any side should be weary of, but Nkunku, has caught the eye of everyone this season, marking his name down for 17 goals and 13 assists in the Bundesliga alone, and the French international will certainly be one to look out for.

On the injury and suspension side of things, central midfielder Amadou Haidara has been out since the end of March with no real return date, Lukas Klostermann continues his recovery from Covid-19, and finally a boost in the line-up sees both centre backs Willi Orban and Mohamed Simakan return from suspension.

Rangers

After recent short comings and currently second in the Scottish Premiership it looks as if Rangers will conceded the title with question marks around Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s appointment after Steven Gerrard left Rangers in a good position November of last year. However, reaching the semi-final of the Europa League is something Gerrard failed to do in his reign getting knocked out in the round of 16 last season 3-1 on aggregate to Slavia Prague.

The success over Borussia Dortmund set the mood for the Scott’s in the knockout stages, emphatically dispatching of German fan favourites 6-4 on aggregate. The following two fixtures saw Rangers lose away from home against Red Star and Braga 2-1 and 1-0 respectively, but the Ibrox Stadium is where The Teddy Bears show they’re full of grit on the inside. The 3-0 victory was a dominant performance against Red Star, and the return leg against Braga ended in a 3-1 victory thanks to Kemar Roofe’s extra time goal - match of the quarters in my opinion.

Roofe and Alfredo Morelos unquestionably miss out on Thursday night and Aaron Ramsey is also likely to miss the proceedings, so Fashion Sakala will surely be the go-to man down the middle for Rangers having bagged seven goals across all competitions this campaign. Also, as a side note, James Tavernier is definitely one to keep your eye on in the goal scorers’ market, now level on this season’s UEL top scorer chart with six goals.

Prediction: RB Leipzig Win (7/20)

Rangers always had a difficult ask ahead of them against Leipzig, but having suffered injuries to vital players, it seems insurmountable considering their traveling record in the Europa League this campaign. All they can hope for is a score line to chase when they head home for the return leg. Bet RB Leipzig Win and under 2.5 goals at 26/10 for added value.

West Ham 9/10
Draw 51/20
Eintracht Frankfurt 29/10
(21:00)

The last time West Ham won a European trophy was in 1965 when they defeated German side TSV Munchen, while Eintracht Frankfurt won the European Cup in 1980, the year of the Germans as it was called. Now, David Moyes seeks his first ever cup final, as does Ralf Rangnick mentee, Oliver Gleasner, as the two tussle it out at the London Stadium.

West Ham

West Ham’s English Premier League aspirations seem done and dusted. The Hammers sit seventh in the standings, but there is a chance they could pip Manchester United for sixth. David Moyes’ line-up verses London rivals Chelsea over the weekend gave us a clear indication of where the priority lies. They were surprisingly resilient against the Blues considering Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, Manuel Lanzini, and Michail Antonio all started on the bench.

With European pedigree in mind, West Ham have been arguably underdogs the entire route. But the Londoner’s have risen to the occasion disposing of Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate thanks to an extra time Andrii Yarmolenko strike and put to bed any murmurs of them succumbing to pressure on the road during the knockout stages – defeating Lyon in France 3-0 (4-1 on agg.).

West Ham’s backline has taken major blows which at first saw them leak goals during the season. Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna, and more recently Issa Diop are all still out with injury, but the back three of Ben Johnson, Aaron Creswell, and Craig Dawson were absolute quality over the weekend and should start on Thursday.

Eintracht Frankfurt

I don’t belive Oliver Glasner’s Eintracht Frankfurt come into this competition full of confidence. Currently ninth in the Bundesliga standings with three matches to go is not where a Europa League semi finalist would forsee themselves – but they are thriving on the dark horse label.

The Eagles may be third favourite on the betting line (5/1) to clinch this year’s edition of the Europa League, but they boast a 10-match unbeaten run enroute to the semi-finals. And what makes it more impressive is the defeat of Copa del Rey champions, Real Betis 3-2 on aggregate, as well as the dismantling of Barcelona 4-3 over two legs – added three goals at Camp Nou.

Eintracht Frankfurt have made recent trips to London. Losing out at Stamford Bridge only via penalties, as well as defeating Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates in 2019.
Defender Evan N’Dicka will serve a suspension alongside midfielder Kristin Jakic, both fit and ready for the return fixture on German soil.

Prediction: Draw (51/20)

The stage is bigger than ever for both sides, and the stakes are mountainous high. All gun’s blazing was never the modus operandi for David Moyes, and Eintracht Frankfurt have shown defensive solidarity over their Europa League ties. I expect it to be a subdued performance from both sides ending in a draw, most likely 1-1.

Double @ 11/1
RB Leipzig Win and totals under 2.5 26/10
West Ham/Eintracht Frankfurt Draw 51/20

Written by Joshua Gaillard