Deutsche Welle (English edition)

Fast and furios Frankfurt are Champions League ready

Two Bundesliga candidates for next season's Champions League served up a football feast. Beneath the radar, Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg have had impressive seasons.


Eintracht Frankfurt 4- 3 Wolfsburg, Deutsche Bank


(Kamada 8', Jovic 27', Silva 54', Durm 61' - Baku 6', Weghorst 46', Philipp 85')

Following a week in which Germany's current Champions League representa­tives both suffered frustratin­g quarterfin­al first leg defeats, it was the Bundesliga's likely representa­tives for next season's competitio­n who stole the show at the weekend.

Intricate midfield play, clinical finishing, lethal counteratt­acks, plot twists galore — and even supporters chanting outside the stadium — Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg offered it all from start to finish as they demonstrat­ed just why they are both increasing­ly likely to be in the Champions League next season.

For the Eagles, who eventually tamed the Wolves by virtue of sheer firepower, it would be a first foray into Europe's elite competitio­n since they reached the final of the old European Cup in 1960 — although the historic run to the Europa League semifinal in 2019 certainly provided a foretaste of Frankfurt's appetite for continenta­l competitio­n.

Despite setbacks at the start of each half, Adi Hütter's side remained a constant threat on the counteratt­ack and the Bundesliga's third-most potent attack duly came out on top against the league's second-best defense.

Wolfsburg had only conceded three goals so far in the Rückrunde( the second half of the Bundesliga season), but four different Frankfurt goalscorer­s all found the net on Saturday, as the hosts showed they are ready for the Champions League.

Frankfurt flying

Japanese midfielder Daichi Kamada fired home following a clever dummy, while Luka Jovic's thumping finish to make it 2-1 was even more emphatic. Andre Silva himself scored his 23rd goal of the season in the second half to restore Frankfurt's lead, before Erik Durm scored is first goal in five years.

They were goals scored and created by players who epi

tomize Frankfurt's approach to squad building, a vindicatio­n of the work done by departing sporting director Fredi Bobic and the equally coveted head coach Hütter. Frankfurt have provided a new home for good footballer­s who, for various reasons, haven't quite had the rub of the green elsewhere.

Jovic, of course, embodies that more than most. Having struggled to make an impact at Real Madrid,he already has four goals back at the club where he scored 36 goals in 75 appearance­s in his previous spell as part of Frankfurt's so-called "buffalo herd."

Filip Kostic might have finished the day without an assist, but he is a big part of Frankfurt's European push. Only Thomas Müller has more assists (16) than the pacey Serbian winger (14).

And then there's Andre Silva. German sports magazine "Kicker" called him "insatiable" earlier this year and it was something of an inevitabil­ity that the Portuguese striker would score at some point in this game.

Defense rather than attack

The same was true for Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst, but his 18th goal of the season wasn't enough to help the Wolves win.

The Dutchman was one of the first Wolfsburg players to face the media afterwards, and he could scarcely hide his disappoint­ment that his team had been unable to "put some distance between us and the rest."

Neverthele­ss, Oliver Glasner's team is on course to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016.

Unlike Frankfurt, and despite Weghorst's goals, Wolfsburg's success has been built on a solid defense rather than a particular­ly spectacula­r attack — although Ridle Baku's opener on Saturday was certainly spectacula­r enough.

Like Frankfurt however, the Wolves have also got the best out of players who have slipped under the radar. Austrian midfielder Xaver Schlager has been quietly effective in midfield alongside homegrown captain Maximilian Arnold, who was disgruntle­d after again being overlooked by Joachim Löw last month.

Volkswagen to increase Wolfsburg backing

Wolfsburg, backed by automobile giants Volkswagen, are

one of only three exemptions to German football's 50+1 ownership rule along with Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim.

It's thanks to their links to Volkswagen that Wolfsburg have been able to ride out the financial devastatio­n of the pandemic better than most, with the players not having to take a pay cut.

According to research by Sportbild, Volkswagen's backing would increase from €75 million to €86.25 million per year should the team qualify for the Champions League — justified in terms of Financial Fair Play by the increased visibility and value of the club.

That should enable Wolfsburg to hold on to the likes of Weghorst and Baku while building a squad capable of competing in Europe and the Bundesliga — a balancing act which most German clubs fail to get right.

After all, it's no surprise that one of the games of the season was produced by Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, two teams who aren't in the Champions League. But history suggests they might not be as fun to watch this time next year.

 ??  ?? Eintracht Frankfurt are once again one of the most fun teams to watch in the Bundesliga
Eintracht Frankfurt are once again one of the most fun teams to watch in the Bundesliga
 ??  ?? Ridle Baku has been Wolfsburg this season superb for
Ridle Baku has been Wolfsburg this season superb for

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