Eintracht Frankfurt are in Catalonia on Thursday as they attempt to build on their 1-1 opening leg draw with Barcelona in their UEFA Europa League quarterfinal tie (3 p.m. ET | Paramount+). Ansgar Knauff spectacularly gave the Germans the lead at Deutsche Bank Park last week only for Ferran Torres to equalize before Tuta's red card for two bookings meant that the hosts finished with 10 men.
Australia international Ajdin Hrustic did not see minutes in the home leg but got a run out toward the end of a 2-1 loss at home to SC Freiburg over the weekend and hopes to build on it in Spain.
"First of all, it is 50-50 after we drew 1-1 at home," Hrustic told CBS Sports exclusively. "I think we deserved even more, to be honest. We had a chance or two that we should have maybe taken in the first half. Generally, it was a great team performance. We are going into the second game quite positively with a good feeling."
Eintracht have their work cut out for them ahead of the return leg given that Xavi is currently overseeing a Barca revival at Camp Nou, but Knauff's spectacular strike against the Catalans and the explosion of joy from the Frankfurt fans will not be forgotten in a hurry.
"When I saw the second ball coming to Ansgar, I was hoping he was going to shoot and not take a touch or look to play it out wide," admitted Hrustic. "He took the chance well and tucked it into the top corner -- unstoppable. The boys have probably experienced it a bit more in the past than I have, but for sure it was a huge moment. You get goosebumps out there on the pitch and especially at our home stadium."
Despite their underdog tag against a Barca side reborn since the opening half of the season which saw them drop into the Europa League from the Champions League, the former Groningen man does not think that any potential success for Die Adler should be painted as a giant killing.
"I would not say it would be a shock as it is 50-50 and anything could happen now," he said. "When I think about the club, the boys in the dressing room and how we are as a team, it shows how we stick together. Our character and mentality are what makes us special. I think it is possible."
Hrustic, who faces a big end to the season with the Socceroos as they target FIFA World Cup qualification via the playoffs this summer, pointed to experienced teammates such as ex-Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper and captain Kevin Trapp as they aim to dump out the Balugrana.
"We have our coaching staff, but also Kevin who leads every game, Sebastian Rode and Timothy Chandler -- a few big names and lots of European experience," the 25-year-old told CBS Sports. "Makoto Hasebe and Danny da Costa too, so it is a good combination of youth and experience."
Coach Oliver Glasner also has a role to play as his man management ahead of the opening leg got the players pumped up to perform well enough to come out of the game feeling like they should have done better than draw.
"Ours is a manager who is very winning-minded," said Hrustic of the Austrian. "He wants to succeed, and he can pump us up for the game as he did ahead of the first leg with Barca. He got us to believe that there would be chances and if you look at how the boys came out onto the pitch, that showed."
Despite his confidence in the squad's ability to come away with a semifinal berth secured, Hrustic admits that European qualification via the Bundesliga is still very much a target and that advancing past Barca would be a significant achievement.
"We are fighting in the Bundesliga too and doing quite well," he said. "I think that every club gets a chance to go as far as possible once they are in the Europa League and everyone wants to succeed as much as possible. Obviously, it is something big."
Finally, Hrustic is in no doubt that Eintracht need regular continental action moving forward and hopes that this season's run can be a springboard to regular involvement whether in the Europa League or better.
"If I am honest, yes," said the man from Dandenong as a finishing note. "We do need it and the club has big ambitions. I really believe that we can and should be playing European soccer each year and every year."
You can follow Hrustic and Frankfurt's second leg with Barcelona on Paramount+.