West Ham United and Eintracht Frankfurt will look to take a step closer to Europa League glory when they square off in the first leg of their semi-final tie on Thursday evening.
At a time when the Hammers sit in seventh position in the Premier League standings, Frankfurt find themselves in ninth place in the Bundesliga table.
While some clubs on the continent view this competition as a hindrance, that has never been the case with West Ham as David Moyes, his players and their supporters dare to dream of European glory.
Ensuring European football for next season by any means necessary is the goal and the Hammers have work to do in the Premier League, but the main focus is on lifting this trophy, West Ham’s chances improving significantly now that Barcelona have now been eliminated.
Given the European credentials of their opponents, West Ham were arguably underdogs to defeat each of Sevilla and Lyon, although they performed like an established continental outfit in each of those ties.
The 3-0 demolition of Lyon in France earlier this month stands out above the rest, a goal glut either side of half time blowing their hosts away and leaving the Premier League outfit being tipped to go all the way.
However, four defeats in seven top-flight fixtures, the latest coming at Chelsea on Sunday, means that the East Londoners head into this contest not necessarily full of confidence.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic celebrates scoring against Barcelona on April 14, 2022© Reuters
The same can be said of opponents Frankfurt, who have prevailed in just one of their most recent nine matches in all competitions.
Remarkably, that success came versus Barcelona at Camp Nou, the visitors going 3-0 ahead before having to withstand a late comeback from their more illustrious hosts to earn a famous victory in Spain.
Boss Oliver Glasner has not had the desired effect in the Bundesliga – Frankfurt currently 12 points adrift of the top five with seven matches remaining – but his players have relished their tag of dark horses in the Europa League.
Although five draws have been recorded along the way, SGE are undefeated in 10 matches in this competition, highlighting the size of the task which awaits West Ham on Thursday.
Frankfurt are no strangers to making visits to London, only losing out to Chelsea in a penalty shootout at Stamford Bridge in the 2018-19 semi-finals before ending 2019 with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.