West Ham and Rangers are on the brink of making history as they bid to set up a first European final between an English and a Scottish side.

The two clubs are hoping to meet in Seville next month for the Europa League final on May 18.

But standing in the way of this historic occasion are two German teams, as the semi-finals see Eintracht Frankfurt take on West Ham and RB Leipzig play Rangers.

Europa League semi-finals

  • Thursday: First leg – West Ham vs Frankfurt & RB Leipzig vs Rangers
  • May 5: Second leg – Frankfurt vs West Ham & Rangers vs RB Leipzig

Sky Sports talks to Sky in Germany’s Frankfurt reporter Dennis Bayer and Sky in Germany’s RB Leipzig reporter Philipp Hinze to give us the lowdown on the two Bundesliga sides and find out whether they will stop an all-British final in Spain…

How important is the Europa League for these two sides?

Image:
Frankfurt players celebrate at the Nou Camp after knocking out Barcelona in the Europa League quarter-final

DB: Frankfurt are as excited as you can be. The league is done for them. They’re ninth so they can’t go up or down. It means they’re putting all of their eggs into the Europa League basket.

They’re not focusing on the league now, they’re just focusing on the Europa League and that’s their cup to win and their chance to go to the Champions League, so they’ll be fully focused to put everything in against West Ham.

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Here are some of Frankfurt’s season highlights from Kevin Trapp, Filip Kostic, Rafael Borre & Co.

The Frankfurt fans are crazy about this too. They’re going all in with their team, they travel all around Europe with them like we saw in Barcelona. Many people will go to London without a ticket, so I think they’re going to go there and have some fun wanting their team to win.

Also See:

  • Live football on Sky Sports this week

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  • West Ham news

  • Rangers news

PH: RB Leipzig are excited too. It’s a semi-final against Rangers, who are a big club with a massive fan base. But it’s difficult to judge how important the Europa League is for them.

They’re in the German Cup final this season and, having lost two finals already (2019 & 2021), I think they have to win it this year against Freiburg.

I think the German Cup and the Europa League are on the same level but they also have to qualify for the Champions League through the Bundesliga, and it’s very close for the top four there.

Leipzig are fourth but surprisingly lost against Union Berlin on Saturday, ending their 15-game unbeaten run. So I think you can’t prioritise any of the competitions – it’s all balanced for them at the moment.

How big are these two clubs in Germany?

DB: It depends on how you look at it for Frankfurt. They’re not that big in a sporting sense – they’re kind of a middling club here – but fan wise, they’re one of the biggest clubs in Germany.

Image:
Eintracht Frankfurt fans at a Bundesliga match

You have Bayern Munich, you have Borussia Dortmund and then number three in terms of fan base, would be Frankfurt.

They are definitely one of the most impressive and emotional fan bases in Germany, in both a good and a bad way.

PH: Frankfurt are amazing but Leipzig is a bit different. The club was only founded in 2009 whereas Frankfurt has been in existence for over 100 years.

It’s a very family-orientated fan base at Leipzig so parents with their children come to the stadium whereas Frankfurt have a lot of ultras and hooligans. It’s also loud at the Leipzig stadium, but you cannot compare it to Frankfurt or Rangers.

I think neutral German fans will be backing Frankfurt more than Leipzig in these semi-finals. German fans are big traditionalists. Red Bull’s involvement with Leipzig is a big concern and they hate it, so I think a lot of Germans will be hoping that Rangers reach the final.

Is there a concern there could be fan trouble between Frankfurt and West Ham following the clashes in Seville?

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Ahead of their Europa League tie against Sevilla, a group of West Ham and Eintracht Frankfurt fans clashed after the German side’s win over Real Betis

DB: Yeah, I think so. That’s what I meant when I said Frankfurt are emotional in good and in bad ways.

They can have some aggressive fans and they have some huge ultra-groups – they’re not hooligans but they can be aggressive. I am worried there could be trouble like in Seville if they get provoked.

There could also be an issue of Frankfurt fans in the home end like against Barcelona, but West Ham have a policy in place to stop this.

Image:
Around 30,000 Frankfurt fans were in the Nou Camp to watch their team play Barcelona

Which players pose the biggest threats to the British clubs?

DB: I think the most dangerous player for Frankfurt would be Filip Kostic. He’s their go-to guy: a left winger, he’s very strong, puts dangerous crosses in, is a great dribbler and has a lot of speed. He was also the man-of-the-match against Barcelona – he’s the one to watch.

Another player to look out for is defensive midfielder Djibril Sow, who’s very calm and makes very smart decisions.

And the other man to watch is centre-back Martin Hinteregger. He’s a fan-favourite; they call themselves the ‘Hinty Army’! Every time he wins a tackle or clears the ball away, you can hear those ‘Hinty, Hinty’ calls from the stands. He’s not the best player with the ball at his feet but he’s a bone-hard tackler and a very aggressive defender.

PH: Leipzig’s biggest threat is of course Christopher Nkunku. He’s scored 30 goals in all competitions this season and is a very dangerous player.

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Is RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku the most in-form player in the Bundesliga?

He can create from any situation, be it goals or assists. He’s very skilful and very fast and is a player who will be playing at a bigger club than Leipzig in the future.

In midfield, there’s Dani Olmo and Konrad Laimer, and defensively Josko Gvardiol is a very good centre-back and maybe one for Chelsea this summer.

Up front, Andre Silva is okay but Nkunku, Olmo and Laimer are the biggest threats.

Could Nkunku move to the PL this summer?

Christopher Nkunku is reportedly a target for both Manchester United and Liverpool this summer, so could he move to the Premier League at the end of the season?

Sky in Germany’s RB Leipzig reporter Philipp Hinze told Sky Sports: “I think they want to extend his contract to then add a release clause of around £54.8m (€65m) which can then be triggered at the end of next season.

“Leipzig want to challenge Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga next season, then after that they will sell Nkunku for the release clause.

“But if clubs want to buy him this summer they’ll have to put a lot of money on the table. He has no release clause at the moment so I think he’d cost around £80m (€95m) this summer.

“I think he will sign this new contract and will leave Leipzig in 2023.”

What weaknesses can West Ham and Rangers exploit?

DB: Frankfurt are not the best at defending against quick attacks because they haven’t got the fastest players defensively. If you can work around their press and pass the ball quickly then you’re going to have a chance.

Centre-back Evan Ndicka is also suspended for the first leg after getting sent off against Barcelona and he will be a huge miss. He’s a central part of their defence because he’s a very smart player but also a hard and reliable defender.

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West Ham manager David Moyes says their Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday is one of the biggest games in the club’s history and was the reason why he made changes to the team for the game against Chelsea

PH: I think the biggest threat from Rangers for Leipzig is their physicality. For me, Scottish football is very physical with lots of long balls and headers.

Leipzig will also have to deal with the second leg in Glasgow, where the fans at Ibrox and the atmosphere will be challenging. It was unbelievable there for the Dortmund match.

Will it be an all-German Europa League final?

DB: I think it’s a 50/50 game between Frankfurt and West Ham. It’ll be physical and it’ll be a tie where you can’t make many mistakes.

But as a German, I have to say Frankfurt are going to beat West Ham and will make the final in Seville.

PH: It all depends on the game in Glasgow for Leipzig. The atmosphere at Ibrox makes it a dangerous second leg so they have to be good in the home game. If they can win 2-0 or 3-0 in the first leg then that’ll set them up nicely for the decisive second leg.

But I think this tie is very hard for Rangers because Leipzig’s football will be too fast for them, so I think Leipzig are going to the final.

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Sourse: skysports.com

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