UEFA Europa League Betting Preview: Benfica vs. Eintracht Frankfurt – Thursday, April 18, 2019
Matchup at a Glance
When: Thursday, April 18, 2019, at 03:00 PM
Where: PSD Bank Arena, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Odds: Eintracht Frankfurt -133, Draw +285, Benfica +300 @ Intertops
Eintracht Frankfurt suffered a terrible week but the Frankfurters are still highly competitive on two fronts and everything else but a convincing victory over Benfica on Thursday, 18 April 2019, will cease their UEFA Europa League campaign.
The Germans are yet to lose a home game in the Europa League (4 wins, 1 draw) this season but just a win won't be enough this time. Moreover, the 4-2 defeat in Lisbon was their first Europa League defeat of the season and also first one since a 4-2 away loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2013-14 group stage.
Eintracht Frankfurt achieved 10 wins and 4 draws between both mentioned Europa League defeats, though two draws (5-5 on aggregate) against another popular Portuguese club – FC Porto – have knocked them out of the 2013-14 UEFA Europa League round of 32.
The Lisbon Eagles fly to Frankfurt with a clear purpose to extend their successful form against Bundesliga sides in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. Including the first leg against Eintracht, Benfica prevailed in all three of their previous Europa League knockout phase ties against Bundesliga opponents – all in the round of 32 against Hertha BSC (4-0 home, 1-1 away in 2010), VfB Stuttgart (2-1 home, 2-0 away in 2011) and Bayer Leverkusen (2-1 home, 1-0 away in 2013), recording victories in the last five encounters.
Head-to-Head Stats (H2H)
The first ever encounter between the two clubs proved extremely eventful. Eintracht Frankfurt center-back Evan N'Dicka was sent off early in the 20th-minute, conceding a penalty kick with which Joao Felix opened the scoring fiesta, and although Luka Jovic leveled with his eighth goal of the tournament, a second from the Portuguese wonderkid – who had never previously found the net in Europe – made it 2-1 at half-time.
Two more goals shortly after the break, from defender Ruben Dias and Felix sealing his hat trick, put Benfica in command only for Frankfurt's Portuguese substitute, Goncalo Paciencia (former Porto forward), to give the German side a foothold back in the tie.
Eintracht Frankfurt – Team News
It has been an impressive European campaign so far for Adi Hutter's men, who were unbeaten until their journey to Lisbon only a month after the club's 120th anniversary. Furthermore, it was their first defeat since the turn of the year and the Germans need to recover themselves for the second, decisive leg of the 2018-19 Europa League quarter-finals.
The Eagles topped Group H with maximum points, winning home and away against the likes of Apollon Limassol (Cyprus), Lazio (Italy), as well as the 2017-18 runners-up Olympique Marseille, before knockout phase triumphs against Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan, both of whom, like Benfica, coming from the UEFA Champions League.
It seems that the negative result from Lisbon affected the team's morale and Eintracht lost their first Bundesliga match in 2019 – after seven wins and four draws – losing 3-1 at home to a relegation-threatened Augsburg side on Sunday. Nevertheless, Eintracht Frankfurt are still fourth in the Bundesliga, one point over fifth Gladbach, and they can pursuit Champions League football through two different paths.
Evan Ndicka is suspended after being sent off in the first leg and his absence adds more woe to Adi Hutter's defensive concerns. Experienced Argentine David Abraham is expected to start here, especially if winter signing Martin Hinteregger, who left the pitch injured in the weekend, is not ready to play on Thursday.
But there is also good news. Veteran Marco Russ is back to training, though he will hardly get the nod. Almamy Toure is another option.
Gelson Fernandes was sent off at the weekend but the Swiss midfielder is expected to start against Benfica. Sebastian Rode, Jonathan de Guzman and Mijat Gacinovic are in contention to start in midfield if we assume that Ante Rebic will be the attacking midfielder unless Hutter doesn't plan to be more cautious from the outset.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Haller (5 goals in 9 Europa League appearances) should return to the starting squad and he will partner with topscorer Luka Jovic (who's on loan exactly from Benfica) up front. If Haller doesn't recover in time, Goncalo Paciencia, who scored in his last two appearances, will likely start.
Benfica – Team News
Primeira Liga runners-up in the 2017-18 season, following a club-record four successive league titles, Benfica kicked off their European season in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 aggregate win against Fenerbahce, before PAOK were defeated in the playoffs(5-2 on aggregate) to send the Lisbon Eagles into the group stage for the ninth year in a row.
Finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group, behind strong opponents like Bayern Munich and Ajax Amsterdam, Benfica crossed over to the UEFA Europa League where they reached the quarter-finals for a record fifth time.
Bruno Lage's side, who replaced former manager Rui Vitoria in first days of 2019, overcame another autumn Champions League participant, Galatasaray (winning 2-1 in Istanbul before a goalless second leg in Lisbon), in the round of 32 before eliminating Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb after extra time in the round of 16.
These two ties were actually Benfica's first Europa League encounters since the unfortunate 2014 final in Turin, where the Lisbon club lost to Sevilla on penalties.
Benfica have been defeated in 50% (11) of their last 22 European matches, but the seven wins and four draws have all been this season, during which they have won as many away games as they have lost (three).
In the meantime, the Lisbon Eagles are on top of the domestic league where they lead rivals Porto on goal difference, and are coming after a 4-2 home win over Vitoria Setubal on Sunday. It was their third consecutive victory in all competitions, after a disappointing 1-0 loss to Lisbon rivals Sporting in the Portuguese Cup semi-finals earlier this month, and Bruno Lage's men have scored four goals in each.
Except for the hero from the first leg – Joao Felix – former Eintracht forward Haris Seferovic and Rafa Silva who show good form lately and we expect them in Benfica's starting lineup.
At the back, captain Jardel was chosen over Ferro in the first leg and Bruno Lage will likely stick to this decision here as well
Jonas, who recently turned 35, returns from suspension but it remains to be seen whether the veteran will start here. Considering the form of Felix and Seferovic – it's unlikely.
German Conti, Tyronne Ebuehi and Gabriel Pires are all injured for the away side.
Possible Starting Lineups of Eintracht Frankfurt and Benfica
Eintracht Frankfurt: Kevin Trapp – Makoto Hasebe, Martin Hinteregger, David Abraham – Filip Kostic, Gelson Fernandes, Sebastian Rode, Danny da Costa – Ante Rebic – Goncalo Paciencia, Luka Jovic. (3-4-1-2)
Benfica: Odysseas Vlachodimos – Alejandro Grimaldo, Jardel, Ruben Dias, Andre Almeida – Rafa Silva, Andreas Samaris, Ljubomir Fejsa, Pizzi – Haris Seferovic, Joao Felix. (4-4-2)
Benfica’s ability and experience shouldn't be underestimated but we believe that Eintracht Frankfurt will take advantage of playing in front of their passionate home crowd, though it's not sure whether a win will put them through to the semi-finals. They need to win by at least two goals if they want to stand a chance. Anyway, we place our stake on the Germans and their enthusiastic squad.