Austria Vienna v WSG Tirol
Austria Vienna’s hunt for a first victory of the Austrian Bundesliga season continues on Saturday as they host WSG Tirol at the Generali Arena. The 24-time champions started the season under a cloud after suffering from a three-point deduction due to financial irregularities, and much to the surprise of many, remain in negative points after the first three match days. The capital club had enjoyed a 2-0 lead last weekend at Altach, only to collapse to a 3-2 defeat courtesy of Atdhe Nuhiu’s 90+4 minute winner.
WSG Tirol, on the other hand, have begun 2022/23 with reckless abandon and are the most creative team in the division with 56 shots total and an xG of 9.4 but have proved profligate in front of goal by only scoring five. The Tyrolean side also suffered a late setback during MD3 conceding two injury time goals to throw away a victory against Austria Klagenfurt. However, they can be buoyed by in-form 20-year-old Swedish striker Tim Prica who has impressed with four goals so far.
The Violets have enjoyed a summer of incoming attacking talent such as Marko Raguz, Andreas Gruber and Haris Tabakovic, so Saturday could prove to be the perfect tonic that they need to kickstart their season ahead of a huge UEFA Europa League qualifier double-header against Turkish giants Fenerbahce.
With two teams looking to bounce back from disappointing results, we think that there could be plenty of goals on show with Manfred Fischer, Gruber and Tabakovic all looking to increase their Bundesliga goal tally and for Raguz to get off the mark, with WSG Tirol’s attacking prowess also ready to steal the show.
Sturm Graz v Rheindorf Altach
After mid-week UEFA Champions League qualification disappointment, Sturm Graz return to league action with a tricky home fixture against Altach at the Merkur Arena. Despite a spirited display and a wonderful goal from hotshot striker Rasmus Hojlund, the Black and Whites suffered an extra-time defeat to Dynamo Kyiv to deny their place at Europe’s top table but have booked their ticket in the UEFA Europa League groups for a second season in a row.
With time to lick their wounds, they’ll need to be back to full speed by Saturday night as they face an inspired Altach side who secured a stunning second half comeback victory against Austria Vienna on the last match day, coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 via an Adthe Nuhiu brace and an own goal to secure Miroslav Klose’s maiden Austrian Bundesliga victory since taking over in Vorarlberg.
In the league, Christian Ilzer’s men have been a mixed bag with a stunning win over Red Bull Salzburg, but also two frustrating away draws against Wolfsberger AC and SV Ried to sit in fourth place after three games. Home fixtures against Altach have always proved to be a happy hunting ground for Sturm Graz with 14 victories out of 18 matches and only one defeat.
Sturm Graz are lofty favourites to win this contest and we back them to secure their second home victory of the season and keep in touch with the top three heading into back-to-back fixtures against LASK and Rapid Vienna.
Red Bull Salzburg v Wolfsberger AC
Matthias Jaissle and his Red Bull Salzburg side currently sit in third position, an unfamiliar spot for Austria’s perennial champions. Their setback away at Sturm Graz was an early shock to the system after an opening day dispatching of Austria Vienna. But after a professional victory over TSV Hartberg in Match Day 3, it’s Robin Dutt’s Wolfsberger AC who enter the Bull’s Corner on Sunday. For Dutt and WAC, it couldn’t come at a worse time after a humiliating 5-1 home defeat against LASK last weekend – not the preparation you want heading to the champions.
Wolfsberg bounced back from their thrashing to record a 4-0 victory in their Europa Conference League clash against Gzira United, setting up an intriguing clash against Molde FK so their focus might be more on a safe European passage than Sunday’s fixture.
It was only on 20th December 2020 when Wolfsberg became the last team to inflict a home defeat in the Austrian Bundesliga at the Red Bull Arena, but the Red Bulls have only ever lost twice in their 29 previous league meetings against the Carinthians.
The future of Salzburg wonderkid Benjamin Sesko has been signed and sealed at RB Leipzig next summer, so we expect the Slovenian to play with a weight of his shoulders. Salzburg’s young attacking talents such as Sesko, Roko Simic, Noah Okafor, Maurits Kjaergaard and Luka Sucic have yet to set the world alight this season, but we feel that Sunday might be that opportunity.
LASK v Rapid Vienna
A battle of the current Austrian Bundesliga top two at the Raiffeisen Arena. Despite being level on points, their route to this point has been stark in its contrast. Free-scoring LASK, managed by former Rapid player and manager Dietmar Kühbauer, have been a revelation so far with Croatian striker Marin Ljubicic scoring an incredible nine goals in four games in all competitions for the Linzers. On the other hand, Rapid have found goals hard to come by – only scoring three times in the league so far.
Despite this, Rapid were boosted on Thursday night by welcoming back Ferdy Druijf and Yusuf Demir into the squad as they dispatched Azeri side Neftchi Baku in the Europa Conference League Third Qualifying Round with a dramatic extra time victory. The returning Druijf managed to score the all-important second goal in the 112th minute to set-up a clash with Liechtenstein Cup winners Vaduz for a place in the group stages.
The introduction of Demir added extra creativity to Rapid’s attack that had been missing in the league this season with new signing Guido Burgstaller shouldered with much of the responsibility. LASK’s creativity has mostly come via Ljubicic and Japanese winger Keito Nakamura who jointly-leads the league in assists. Interestingly, Rapid Vienna have enjoyed an unbeaten run of nine games (7 wins, 2 draws) against the Linz club. However, we feel that this fixture is too close to call and could go either way so the best value could be in LASK’s goalscoring prowess and Rapid’s returning stars contributing to a high-scoring contest.
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