WWhen Eintracht Frankfurt hosts PAOK Thessaloniki in the Conference League this Thursday (21:00 on the Conference League ticker FAZ and on RTL), it will be very cold for the first time this football season. In the evening, minus one degree is forecast in Frankfurt.
The duel with the Greeks should be a warming spectacle on the field and, above all, a fair fight in front of 57 thousand spectators at the Waldstadion. Because Dino Toppmöller, immediately after the 1:2 defeat in the first meeting in early October, said that PAOK could “get ready for a hot dance.” “We will approach the game with maximum energy,” said the Eintracht coach. His tone was combative, but businesslike – although the situation had previously been tense.
After Thessaloniki’s winning goal in stoppage time and the final whistle that followed soon after, emotions ran high. A pack formed with pushing and loud mutual accusations, in which Toppmeller did not participate. The bottom line was that goalkeeper Kevin Trapp was shown a red card even though he was not aware of any fault. Now these contradictions have been eliminated. “I still remember a little bit in the back of my mind what happened. But this is not about any kind of revenge,” Toppmöller emphasized on Wednesday. Rather, it is important to keep a cool head.
Especially in view of the serious disturbances that occurred last Saturday at the home match against Stuttgart (1:2), holding a football festival on the international stage with mutual respect would be very welcome for all parties. “I can only appeal: we all want a peaceful atmosphere and support from the audience. We want to repay this with a good performance,” Toppmeller said. He directly wished “all the people” injured during the clashes in front of the 40th block a “speedy recovery.”
Eintracht wants to avoid a draw
On the last day of November, a lot is at stake for the residents of Frankfurt. In the new year they will also be represented at the third most important European competition, that’s for sure. But you can save yourself the extra task. Only the group winner directly advances to the 1/8 finals, which will take place on March 7 and 14. If the Frankfurt side, who are currently one point behind league leaders PAOK, are successful against the Greeks, they will be in a good starting position for their final meeting on December 14 away to Aberdeen to finish top of Group G.
However, if the Hessians remain second in the final table, they will enter the round of 16, with match days scheduled for 15 and 22 February. On December 18 in Nyon they will compete for third place in the Europa League. Eintracht wants to avoid a draw. “We know the importance of the game,” Toppmeller said. “We really want to win and take first place. We want to have our destiny in our own hands.”
The Frankfurt team, which is still active in all three possible competitions, already has some work to do. This time, before the short winter break, they will play six times between this Thursday and just before Christmas: four times in the Bundesliga (Augsburg, Bayern Munich, Leverkusen and Monchengladbach), in the German Cup (away to Bayern Saarbrücken) and in Scotland at the end group stage. The second half of the game begins with the last game of the first division on Saturday, January 13 at 15:30 away against Leipzig. The Hessians will forego training camp over the winter break for scheduling reasons.
After their first home defeat in the Bundesliga in about a year, with 15 games without defeat, it is important for Eintracht to gain new confidence in their abilities after defeating PAOK. She needs to improve, especially on defense. Before the game with Dortmund (3:3) on October 29, the Hessians conceded only six goals in eight matches. If we take into account the meeting with BVB, then there were seven games in four matches. “Both goals against Stuttgart had to be defended,” said sporting director Markus Krösche and called for “minimizing mistakes.”
One of the reasons for the recent loss of consistency is the absence of Robin Koch due to injury. The head of defense was unable to demonstrate his leadership skills for three weeks due to torn muscle fibers. Without it, duel defense ratings deteriorated significantly. Fellow centre-backs Tuta and Willian Pacho were seen losing their usual safety in some situations.
Now 27-year-old Koch is again taking part in the team’s training sessions. He could return to action this Sunday (19:30 live on FAZ in the Bundesliga and on DAZN) in Augsburg. “We are cautiously optimistic that Robin will be able to be part of the team again. Before that, he will have intensive individual training. We’ll see how he copes,” Toppmeller said. In Augsburg it is expected to be even colder: minus eight degrees.
Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine
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