Thursday soccer action offers a pair of Europa League semifinal games though both will be hard pressed to match the drama and unexpected results of the Champions League semis. Like the Champions League, however, the Europa League could see an all-England semifinal should Chelsea and Arsenal both win.
Chelsea is in decent shape entering this game both at home and abroad. Although Chelsea would have liked to finish higher up in the Premiership they will finish in the top 4 and thus will return to play in the Champions League next year. The team already has an issue to contend with for next season as they’ve been assessed a two-window transfer ban by FIFA. They will appeal that ruling but should it be upheld it will make the challenge of returning to the top of the EPL all the more difficult. Manager Maurizio Sarri has gone so far to suggest that his team’s ability to close the gap with Liverpool and Manchester City will hinge upon having the ban frozen or overturned. He later backtracked a bit on that comment suggesting that the team was ‘one or two players away’. They can finish as high as third this season with their Premier League final on deck for Sunday against Leicester City.
Chelsea also finds itself in a good spot for this contest. Their status in the Premiership makes the season finale against Leicester less of a concern and allows them to play their best squad here in order to secure a trip to the Europa League finals. They forged a 1-1 tie in Germany last week and if they maintain the good form they’ve had in Europa League play at Stamford Bridge they’ve all but booked their ticket. Chelsea has won all six Europa League games at home this year and have scored 3 or more in their last five. They’ve now won 7 of 9 at home in all competitions.
Eintracht Frankfurt are in fourth place in the Bundesliga but their status is considerably more tenuous than Chelsea’s with a pair of games remaining against Mainz this weekend and against Bayern Munich the following Saturday. Eintracht is more appropriately tied for fourth place with Bayer Leverkusen with both sides having 54 points. Borussia Monchengladbach and VFL Wolfsburg are right behind with 52 points and TSG Hoffenheim is also in the mix with 51. They’ll need to bounce back from a poor showing this weekend when they were routed 6-1 at Leverkusen. They’ve won only 1 of their last 7 games in all competitions but have won 4 of 6 Europa League away games scoring at least twice in 5 of those contests.
Overall, Chelsea’s home form has been exceptionally strong all year and particularly in Europa League play. Entracht should find their way on the board but Chelsea will likely have enough of a margin that ceding an away goal won’t be much of a concern.