Eintracht Frankfurt travel to France to take on Ligue 1 side RC Strasbourg in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off round first leg on Thursday night.
Story Behind the Game
Strasbourg qualified for Europe for the first time since 2006 after beating Guingamp on penalties in the Coupe de la Ligue final in March and after wins in two qualifying rounds, find themselves just 180 minutes away from a potential place in the group stages.
Three wins from three in pre-season set them up perfectly for their European charge, which began well with a 3-1 win at home to Israelis, Maccabi Haifa. Despite losing the second leg, the Alsace side progressed 4-3 on aggregate, to set up a tie with Lokomotiv Plovdiv.
Stefan Mitrovic’s goal in Bulgaria earned them a 1-0 win with a 1-0 win in the return leg sending them through to face Frankfurt. Their league action hasn’t started brilliantly but they are unbeaten following two draws with Metz and Reims.
As for the Germans, they have also come through qualifying rounds to get here, first beating Estonian side Flora Tallinn 2-1 in both legs before facing FC Vaduz. A 5-0 win in the first leg set them up for a comfortable second leg, where one goal was enough to seal victory and a clash with Racing.
They kicked off their Bundesliga campaign last weekend, with a 1-0 win over Hoffenheim thanks to a first minute goal from Martin Hinteregger, while in the cup, three late goals saw them dispatch of lower league side Waldhof 5-3.
The two sides have met just once before, way back in 2010 when the Germans won a pre-season friendly 3-2.
Strasbourg have no new injury worries or suspensions to contend with ahead of the first leg at the Stade de la Meinau.
Boss Thierry Laurey has made a few rotations between his starting line-ups in Ligue 1 and the Europa League and is likely to do so again, but we may get an idea of what he sees as his first choice starting 11 come Thursday night.
Visitors Eintracht are without midfielder Djibril Sow with a cracked tendon and he will be joined in the stands by Jonathan De Guzman and Marco Russ who also miss out through injury.
They are without Luka Jovic this season following his move to Real Madrid, leaving Ante Rebic as their primary source for goals.
RC Strasbourg: Sels; Lala, Kone, Mitrovic, Ndour; Sissoko, Lienard; Fofana, Martin, Carole; Ajorque
Eintracht Frankfurt: Wiedwald; Abraham, Hasebe, Hinteregger; Da Costa, Kohr, Fernandes, Gacinovic, Kostic; Rebic, Paciencia
Ante Rebic vs Stefan Mitrovic
Croatian forward Rebic could be handed the task of leading the line for Frankfurt in the Meinau on Thursday night. He will be up against it though, with Racing centre back Mitrovic a tough man to break down. Space will open up for the striker with Kenny Lala and Abdallah Ndour liking to attack for the hosts, Danny Da Costa and Filip Kostic may drag the Strasbourg centre halves out wide, allowing Rebic some space in the middle which he will have to take advantage of to get Frankfurt a crucial away goal.
Youssouf Fofana vs Martin Hinteregger
After an impressive breakthrough season last year, Fofana has alerted himself to some of Europe’s bigger clubs, with a move to Monaco discussed over the summer. He remains with Strasbourg however and will be an important part of the Ligue 1 side’s attack in this tie. Playing against Frankfurt’s likely back three, including Hinteregger who although experienced, isn’t the quickest, could be a useful area for the hosts to exploit and Fofana will look to do just that.
What the Managers Have Said
Thierry Laurey, RC Strasbourg: "We know that Frankfurt is a big machine, with a huge budget, a wonderful stadium, an army of supporters, like us.
“We don't feel an obligation to reach the group stage, but now that we're in front of the door, we want it to open. We know that it won't be easy, that Frankfurt has European experience and a lot of other experience too, but as underdogs, we intend to play our part.
“We're going to have to lift our game, that's obvious, but we have nothing to lose. We've already managed to create some surprises, so why not give ourselves a nice gift against Frankfurt?"
Adi Hutter, Eintracht Frankfurt: “Strasbourg will be a tough nut to crack but we will make changes. At the end of the day, it's always about to set up the best possible team. The tactics play a role and certainly the shape of the players. I do not always talk about every single player, the whole team is above everything. "