All-British or All-German Europa League Cup Final?
We've reached the semi-final stage of the 2022/23 Europa League with two German clubs and two from Great Britain. Who will reach the final that is being held in Seville on May 18. Will we see an all-British final or could it be one between two sides from the Bundesliga? The first legs take place on April 28 with the second legs on May 5.
Hammers Out to Reach the Final
It's 57 years since West Ham United won the European Cup Winners Cup. 1976 saw them get to another final and in 1999 they won the Inter Toto Cup Since then they have only had five European campaigns and this is the first time the Hammers have made it past the second round. Now they are one tie away from another European final.
They've had a good season but can be inconsistent at times. That's illustrated by 11 Premier League defeats and at the time of writing this news item (April 20), they are seventh in the table. It's looking as if they will have to win the Europa League to be in the 2022/23 Champions League final. It's even possible they might miss out on European football altogether if dropping out of the top seven.
West Ham won their Europa League group by three points from Dinamo Zagreb. Only one game was lost and that was home to Zagreb once qualification had been achieved. The last 32 saw them take on former winners Seville, winning 2-1 on aggregate. That took them into the quarter finals where they were held at home by Lyon but then shocked the French side with a 3-0 away win in the second leg.
As with the quarter finals, the Hammers are home in the first leg of this last four tie. They are strong at home and have won three of their five away Europa League games this season. A bold bid will be made to get to the final.
Frankfurt Aim to Cause Another Shock
When the draw was made for the quarter and semi-finals, few gave Eintracht Frankfurt much chance of success. They were given a last eight tie against Barcelona and that looked to be the end of the road for them. However, the German Bundesliga side had other ideas. They led the home first leg but ended up being held to a 1-1 draw. That made them even more the outsiders but then they went to Spain and won 3-2, after leading 3-0.
Now they are in the semi-finals and bidding to reach their first European final since winning the 1979-80 UEFA Cup. That was a strange year with the final four teams all being from the Bundesliga. Frankfurt beat Borussia Monchengladbach in the final, could another all-German final take place this year?
They find themselves in a similar position to West Ham. Frankfurt are ten points behind the final Europa Conference League position. The only way they will be in Europe next season will be if they win the Europa League. Like West Ham, they have also lost 11 league games this season. Better form has been shown in the Europa League though.
Frankfurt won their group with three wins and three draws. They also had Spanish opposition in the last 16 and beat Real Betis 3-2 on aggregate. Not an easy tie though despite winning the away first leg 2-1. Frankfurt lost 1-0 at home after 90 minutes and needed a 121st minute own goal to get the winner. Then came the defeat of Barcelona in the last eight.
Including extra time, Frankfurt are unbeaten in the Europa League this season. They have drawn five of those matches with four of them ending 1-1 (one after extra time). If you include extra time, all of their ten Europa League matches have seen both teams score. They may be underdogs against West Ham but a close tie looks likely.
Another Win 50 Years On?
2022 marks 50 years since Glasgow Rangers won the European Cup Winners Cup. They beat Dynamo Moscow in the final and that was also held in Spain as this year's Europa League final will be. Can they mark the 50 years anniversary by reaching theif first European final since losing to Zenit Saint Petersburg in the 2008 UEFA Cup final?
Rangers lost to Malmo in the qualifying rounds of this season's Champions League. They look assured of being in the 2022/23 Champions League as they are currently second in the Scottish Premiership but struggling to catch Celtic. Rangers only finished second in their Europa League group, finishing eight points behind leaders Lyon but a point ahead of Sparta Prague. None of their away group games were won and all six matches had under 2.5 goals scored in them.
Rangers were then given a tough draw in the last 32. Borussia Dortmund were their opponents and the side transferred from the Champions League were overwhelming favourites. Not for long though as Rangers went to Dortmund for the first leg and went 3-0 up with Tavernier (above) scoring the first goal. They eventually won 4-2 and Tavernier scored two more goals in the home 2-2 draw in the second leg. The ten goals in that tie was one less than the number scored in Rangers six group games.
That took Rangers into the last 16 where they beat Red Star Belgrade 4-2 on aggregate, winning the home first leg 3-0. In the quarter finals, it was a lot tougher for Rangers. The away first leg in Braga was lost 1-0 but Tavernier was again in top form in the return leg at Ibrox. He levelled the tie after just two minutes and put them ahead a minute before half time. A late goal from the Portuguese side took the tie into extra time but a 101st minute goal from Roofe probably lifted the roof off Ibrox as Rangers qualified. They face a tough task against Leipzig but will hope for another great display in Germany when the first leg is played.
Leipzig Chasing Double Cup Triumph
While the other three teams in the Europa League semi-finals have long histories, that's not the case with RB Leipzig. Their first European campaign was in 2017 but they have enjoyed plenty of success since then. 2018 saw them get to the last eight of this competition. Two years later they lost to PSG in the Champions League semi-final.
Leipzig are third in the Bundesliga and looking good to qualify for the 2022/23 Champions League. That takes a lot of pressure off them in this competition. They are also in the semi-finals of the German Cup with a tie against Union Berlin. This season began with them in the Champions League and they lost their first game 6-3 at Manchester City. Christopher Nkunku (above) won't forget that game as he scored a hat-trick.
The Bundesliga side finished third in the group but beat Manchester City 2-1 at home and drew with PSG. Transferred to the Europa League, Leipzig beat Real Sociedad in the last 32. Twice they came from behind in the home leg to draw 2-2 and then won 3-1 in Sociedad. The last 16 saw them draw Spartak Moscow and the current crisis in Ukraine saw them given a bye into the quarter finals.
There they were drawn against Italian team Atalanta. Again they trailed in the home leg but managed to draw 1-1. Just like in the last 32, they won the away leg with Nkunku scoring twice in their 2-0 win in Italy. Now they take on Rangers with the first leg at home. They will be very difficult to beat and could well be on the way to their first European final.
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