On February 20, the Europa League finally returns from the winter break. In contrast to the remaining participants in the Champions League, the Europa League teams have to run every week. There are still 3 teams from the Bundesliga in the UEFA Europa League: Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg. Our round-up to the Europa League reveals who are the opponents and how high is the chance to succeed.
Eintracht Frankfurt – Salzburg FC (February 20, 6:55 p.m.)
The heads of Eintracht were frowning when the FC Salzburg draw was drawn as an upcoming opponent in the round of the last sixteen. After a furious Champions League group phase with 16 goals scored, Salzburg was only eliminated on the last match day. In winter, however, the Austrians experienced violent bleeding: top scorer Erling Haaland moved to Dortmund, Takumi Minamino to Liverpool, Marin Pongračić to Wolfsburg. The Salzburgers are going into the second half of the season with a completely new offensive. Another disadvantage: The Austrian Bundesliga has been in the winter break since mid-December, Salzburg start the second half of the season only six days before the first leg in Frankfurt.
Eintracht came well from the winter break, scoring seven points from the first three games, including a 2-0 win over the Salzburg “franchise” from Leipzig. SBU coach Adi Hütter also knows Salzburg from his time as coach of the Red Bull Juniors (2005-2009) and the first division team (2014-2015). Last year’s semi-finalist has further “Ösi experience” with Martin Hinteregger and winter newcomer Stefan Ilsanker. Eintracht is therefore the favorite in this sixteenth final.
VfL Wolfsburg – Malmö FF (20.02.2020, 9:00 p.m.)
The supposedly easiest German opponent is the current runner-up from Sweden. Until the end of last season, Malmö was coached by Uwe Rösler, Rösler recently took over as coach at Fortuna Düsseldorf. His successor at MFF is no stranger to the Bundesliga either: Jon Dahl Tomasson, once a scorer at VfB Stuttgart. Remarkable: In his time with the Swabians, Tomasson did not win both games against VfL Wolfsburg. Similar to Salzburg, the Swedes have not played a competitive game since mid-December. In addition, goal keeper Markus Rosenberg ended his career, which is why the offensive will probably depend primarily on Isaac Kiese Thelin.
The second round start for the wolves was anything but optimal. Defeats in Cologne and Hertha could be corrected with an away win in Paderborn. In the Europa League, coach Oliver Glasner’s team pushed the knockout phase with two close 1-0 wins on the last two matchdays. If VfL does not catch a completely black day, it should already set the course in the first leg for a reasonably relaxed progress. In the Swedbank Stadium in Malmö, the matter is likely to be much more unpleasant, there Malmö has not lost a Europa League game this season. Our forecast: Wolfsburg is in rhythm, has more individual quality. The Lower Saxony prevail!
Bayer Leverkusen – FC Porto (20.02.2020, 9:00 p.m.)
In the Rhineland, when the first leg kicked off, the Carnival just started. Instead of „Kamelle“ and „Strüßjer“, the Werkself will face a heavyweight in Portuguese football. After starting difficulties in August and September, the former Champions League winner from Porto had only lost one game between mid-October and mid-January (0-2 at Rangers) in all competitions. With a 3:2 win against Feyenoord Rotterdam on the last day of the Europa League group stage, the team around former real defender Pepe climbed from 3rd to 1st place. The name Sérgio Conceição rings everyone’s ears who have seen the disastrous out of the DFB team against Portugal at the EURO 2000. The former “Germany fright” is now coach at the FCP and can rely on a solid mix of veterans and youngsters.
Both Bayer and FC Porto have been long-standing participants in the UEFA club competitions, but both have never met before. There was only one test match in July 2016 between Leverkusen and Porto, final score was 1:1. However, Leverkusen’s result against Portuguese clubs is positive: in 16 clashes, there were 7 wins, 5 losses and 4 draws. It is far from certain whether the team of coach Peter Bosz, who only dropped out in a group with Juve and Atlético Madrid on the last matchday of the CL group phase, will progress against an international top team like Porto. Especially in the home BayArena Leverkusen is anything but stable, in the Bundesliga home table you are only tenth. Clearly: Leverkusen has caught the biggest chunk of the three German Europa League participants. If this weakness at home persists, we see FC Porto at an advantage and fear that the Werkself will be out.