FC Red Bull Salzburg v WSG Tirol
Salzburg truly hit their stride for the first-time last weekend when they steam-rolled high-flying Lustenau with a 6-0 win away from home, and next up they take on a WSG side who will be satisfied with their mid-table start for now.
Salzburg’s lightning fast attacking football was somewhat lacking at the beginning of the season, but it appears to have returned in time for the UEFA Champions League. Without an out-and-out leader up top, Matthias Jaissle’s young team have managed to start delivering goals from all over. Last week’s 6-0 win involved six different scorers, and youngsters Adamu and Kameri both have two goals in two games after settling into the rhythm of the team’s breakaway counter style. Recent matchups between these teams have seen Salzburg score two, three, four and five times, with WSG chipping in four goals of their own in that spell.
Opponents WSG are often able to get the better of smaller sides in the league, whereas against the bigger teams, they usually put up a good fight but come off on the losing side. Their chance creation has been solid this season, and with Tim Prica on form they have someone to put them away; they’ve scored at least once in every game they’ve played this campaign. An away trip to Salzburg isn’t a place for WSG to pick up points, especially after they showed their vulnerability to the counterattack in a recent defeat to then bottom club WAC. The Tirolers seem destined to play their part in a high scoring contest, with Salzburg running out comfortable winners at the end of the day.
SK Sturm Graz v TSV Hartberg
Sunday’s game is a fairly big derby in the state of Styria, as local bragging rights are at stake in the state capital, Graz. Sturm will try to transition smoothly into the post-Hojlund era, after selling their top striker to Atalanta for a record €17m last week. They’ve already smartly invested in another young Danish attacker, William Boving, and loaned Swiss striker Albian Ajeti from Celtic to bolster their forward line.
As influential as Rasmus Hojlund was, he was only at the club for six months, so Sturm should be able to remember how to score without him, and with youngster Emanuel Emegha in the midst of a breakthrough campaign, it may have been the ideal time to cash in on their striker. Manprit Sarkaria is also still around to produce the goods in the final third, and the team has kept hold of their tight defence, which all adds up to them being favourites for Saturday’s game.
Hartberg have lost four of their last five in all competitions, including being dumped out of the cup by lower-league opposition, and their two wins in the league this season have come somewhat out of the blue. Whilst they are capable of tearing up the form book from time to time, Sturm’s 3-0 home win in the last derby showed the current gulf in class between the teams. Depressingly for Hartberg, Donis Avdijaj is still their top scorer on two, and he departed a month ago from the team with the fewest shots on target, and the fewest chances created in the league. Their defence seems to allow fewer goals than expected overall, so it could be a close one, but Sturm at home should have enough firepower to seal the win.
Wolfsberger AC v SK Austria Klagenfurt
Wolfsberg breathed a sigh of relief after moving off the bottom of the table with a come from behind victory last weekend. Their three goals secured a first win of the season, and gave them a lifeline early into what has been a disappointing campaign. Carinthian neighbours Klagenfurt also managed three goals last weekend, as they pegged back Austria Vienna with a late penalty in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Both teams come into this game with an identical record of one win, two draws and three defeats in the Bundesliga this season, and both put five past their opponents midweek in routine cup wins. WAC will hope that striker Dario Vizinger has found his form again after his much needed brace in the cup, and newcomer Thierno Ballo has shown signs of composure in front of goal which were sorely lacking in his loan spell at Rapid last season. WAC lie a respectable third in terms of average shots on target, and they’re tracking comfortably at 1.5 goals per game, despite their patchy results.
Klagenfurt have just brought in pacy striker Solomon Bonnah from RB Leipzig, but German forward Jonas Arweiler has been key in terms of getting shots on target this term, and he will relish the chance to play against a WAC defence which is likely to be missing Christoph Baumgartner through injury, as well as his former centre back partner Luka Lochoshvili who was sold to Serie A. Klagenfurt seem to possess a set-piece danger which could come into play this weekend, too, and they’ve already managed a few high scoring draws this season. In their last two meetings, these sides managed a total of eight goals, which fittingly were shared four each, and with clean sheets very hard to come by, we can certainly see them continuing the trend on Sunday.
LASK v SV Ried
It’s another derby this weekend, as Upper Austrian rivals LASK and Ried do battle in what will be a sold out and noisy stadium in Pasching.
Unbeaten LASK have undoubtedly been the league’s surprise package so far this term. They currently sit in first position, having only dropped points once after suffering an unfortunate late equaliser against Austria Vienna. They’ve not had an easy run of fixtures either, so the success has been down to solid performances, and finally converting more of their chances. Marin Ljubicic has taken the plaudits with his amazing goal record (six in six), but Keito Nakamura and Thomas Goiginger have pulled their weight and then some, with 11 goals and assists combined, as LASK look frightening every time they go forward.
Ried’s defence will be missing suspended centre back Tin Plavotic, and at the other end of the pitch the team hasn’t mustered any momentum yet this season; their last (and only) league win came back in July. After losing three on the bounce in the Bundesliga, they were also looking lost in the cup against regional league opponents midweek, trailing 2-0 before a fightback to win 4-2. That might be the catalyst needed to get the league’s lowest scorers moving in front of goal. They’ve already missed ten major chances this season, so there is hope there for Ried’s forwards, and ex-LASK man Christoph Monschein will be more than motivated to get on the score sheet. There’s not much value to be had in league leaders LASK winning here, and in the Upper Austrian derby there’s always an air of uncertainty around the result in any case; we could easily imagine a 2-1 win either way, so over 2.5 goals is the way to go.
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