UEL: Frankfurt bank on away support at West Ham

Eintracht Frankfurt expect thousands of German fans to travel again in the hope of inspiring another away victory, like the shock win at Barcelona, for Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg at West Ham.

Around 30 000 Eintracht fans managed to get tickets for the second leg of their quarterfinal at Camp Nou, roaring the German club to a stunning 3-2 win at Barcelona to seal a 4-3 aggregate victory.

Visiting Frankfurt fans have been allocated 5,000 tickets for the game at West Ham’s London Stadium, which has a capacity of 60 000, but the German club expects tens of thousands of fans to make the journey.

“I am absolutely sure there will be more than 5,000 in the city,” Eintracht CEO Axel Hellmann told AFP.

“Our fans like to travel and support their team abroad – that’s why we brought 15 000 to Inter Milan” for the last-16 tie in 2019. Frankfurt reached the semi-finals that year before losing to Chelsea on penalties.

“30,000 at Barcelona was absolutely the peak of our club history’s going abroad. It’s part of our DNA.”

Frankfurt’s Colombia forward Rafael Borre explained why the upset win on a magic night in Barcelona has captured the imagination of Frankfurt fans.

“Many people thought it was impossible. So when you achieve it, it’s normal for people to feel euphoric,” said Borre, who scored away to Barcelona in the quarterfinal.

In a bid to avoid a repeat of the scenes at Camp Nou that prompted Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez to say it felt like they had been “robbed in their own home”, West Ham have warned their supporters against selling tickets to Frankfurt fans.

Under Austrian coach Oliver Glasner, Frankfurt have struggled at times in the Bundesliga this season, saving their best performances for Europe.

Their fans are desperate to reach the final in Seville on May 18 for the chance of silverware.

Before their shock win over Bayern Munich in the 2018 German Cup final, Eintracht’s previous title was in 1979-80 when they won the Uefa Cup — the precursor to the Europa League — by beating Borussia Moenchengladbach over two legs in an all-German final.

Frankfurt’s run to the semi-finals has reportedly so far earned around 27 million euros ($29 million), a welcome sum with fans only just returning to home games after months of matches behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

“Covid had a bad impact on our balance sheet,” admitted Hellmann. “We lost 70 million euros over the three years.

“The Europa League is important for us to compensate for that, but it won’t cover it completely.

“There’ll still be a gap we have to close, which might mean selling one or two players this summer.”

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