Between the two Champions League semi-finals against Real Madrid, a Bundesliga match is still waiting. Before the second leg in Madrid, Bayern will face Eintracht Frankfurt. This is Niko Kovac’s first trip to Munich after announcing his move to FC Bayern.
Since securing the championship, the Bundesliga no longer has the highest priority. We have already warned in the last previews of the Bundesliga games to take these games seriously and stay in rhythm. Jupp Heynckes demands the same. And his team has done it perfectly so far. After the successful game against Gladbach, a good performance against Hannover followed with a 3-0 victory despite mega-rotation.
The debut of Lars Lukas Mai against Hannover 96 was particularly pleasing for many Bayern fans: After a long time, a talent from the youth was once again able to celebrate his Bundesliga and starting XI debut with the first team. Mai showed quite a solid performance. At the beginning he seemed a bit nervous and had to find his way around the professional game system. But these are all points that are perfectly normal for a debut. In view of Jerome Boateng’s injury, Mai will probably reappear against Eintracht Frankfurt right from the start.
Actually, this Bundesliga game is just another game to be played, but the duel against Eintracht Frankfurt is not a normal game at the end of the season. After all the disputes between the management around the appointment of Niko Kovac as the new head coach for the coming season, there is a certain media buzz lurking. Surely all eyes will be on Niko Kovac on this day.
The match will also be the dress rehearsal for the DFB Pokal final on May 19th in Berlin. But anyone who has watched Jupp Heynckes over the last few weeks will know that he will probably play down the subject and restart the rotation machine despite the dress rehearsal. The game against Real Madrid is simply too important for that. We will probably see a B-XI as we already did against Hannover. If you can call it a B-XI at all, the alleged B-XI scored 8 goals in the last two Bundesliga matches.
Eintracht Frankfurt is playing a very good season so far. Like last year, Niko Kovac’s team managed to stay in the top half of the table. Compared to last season, the Hessians did not collapse so badly in the second half of the season. Currently, Eintracht is in seventh place with 46 points. One point behind RB Leipzig. Frankfurt’s goal is certainly to qualify for international business. Seventh place is enough for them, because they themselves are in the cup final with the Bavarians. However, as only the winner of the DFB Pokal qualifies directly for the Europa League, Frankfurt would be well advised to secure at least seventh place in the final table.
In order to achieve this goal, however, Frankfurt still has to collect some points at the end of the season. Recently, the results in the league have been anything but satisfactory. The team from the Main metropolis celebrated their last victory against Mainz 05 on Matchday 27. Since then, no victory has been achieved. Especially the two defeats at Leverkusen (4:1) and against Hertha (0:3) revealed weaknesses in the defense.
The recent weaker results were somewhat concealed by the progress in the DFB Pokal. For the second time in a row, the Frankfurt team have reached the cup final and want to crown themselves this time in order to put a positive end to Niko Kovac’s term in office. All in all, the development at Eintracht is very positive. The team around Fredi Bobic and Bruno Hübner did a good job and was able to provide Niko Kovac with a powerful team through clever transfers.
Their playing style
The greatest strength of Eintracht is certainly its flexibility. Niko Kovac not only managed to give the team a good organization on the defensive, but also to implement a solid ball possession game. Frankfurt does not shy away from taking the initiative in a game. Especially in the second half of the first leg, the Hessians were the more active team and the Bavarians defended more.
When Frankfurt then tries to make the game by longer ball possession phases, they often let the ball circulate in their first line and try to find gaps in the opposition’s defense. If the ball is then played to the offensive players, usually the speed increases and more lay-offs and vertical passes are used. With Hasebe and Mascarell in particular, Frankfurt has two players who are formative for the development game of Eintracht. Hasebe was pulled back into the defence by Kovac and impresses with intelligent positioning and precise passes into midfield. Mascarell, De Guzman and Kevin-Prince Boateng are all midfield players who can handle the ball well even under pressure.
Niko Kovac usually uses a 3-4-3 or 3-1-4-2 in possession of the ball, but other formations are always possible. In the defensive phase, the Frankfurters then form a back five and use different staggerings in front of it. The Hessians already defended in a 5-3-2; 5-2-3 or a 5-4-1, mostly there are only few differences between the formations. However, these nuances are decisive for the success of Eintracht. These details are adaptations to the opponent. It is precisely these adjustments that make Frankfurt so strong this season.
While the opponent has the ball, Niko Kovac’s team acts with quite a lot of man orientations. This way you have direct access to the opponents and can put pressure on them immediately, but Frankfurt doesn’t always find the right balance and likes to be pulled out of position too easily. These problems were particularly noticeable in the last defeats against Hertha BSC and Bayer Leverkusen in particular.
Player to watch
Makoto Hasebe, Jonathan De Guzman and Ante Rebic. Frankfurt has some interesting players. However, all three are absent from the match against Bayern due to suspensions or injuries. The last one left is Omar Mascarell. Mascarell is a graduate of the Real Madrid Youth Academy. However, he usually only played for the second team. After loans to Derby County and Sporting Gijon, he landed in Frankfurt in 2016 and immediately convinced.
Mascarell is the thinker and leader of the Frankfurt team. Most of the time he plays as a six and makes sure that they don’t lose their connections when they have the ball. He offers himself cleverly and thus stimulates the combination game of the Hessians. Also defensively he convinces by his good game overview, on average he intercepts the ball 2.5 times per game and has a success rate of 83% with tackles. Mascarell is one of the faces of Frankfurt’s development.
Eintracht acquired Mascarell from Madrid for only 1 million euros. Under Niko Kovac, he quickly developed into an important part of the successful team, but has already had to fight injuries this season. It will be important for the Bayern to control the Frankfurt team’s counterattacks and not let Niko Kovac’s team come into play.
Bayern’s good positional play will certainly give them the opportunity to break the Frankfurt’s defence after switching sides. Jupp Heynckes will probably be rotating many players with the second leg against Real Madrid in mind. The motto will be, just no more injuries in order to attack Real Madrid again with all available players. Nevertheless, as always, Jupp Heynckes’ team will take a professional approach to the game and try to win it as well.