Red Bull Salzburg v Altach
Table-topping Salzburg welcome basement side Altach to the Red Bull Arena on Saturday, amid a Covid outbreak which has left its mark on the defending champions. Catching up on postponed league and cup fixtures, as well as the preparations for a huge second leg against FC Bayern in the UEFA Champions League next week may mean that Salzburg are somewhat distracted, but they should still easily have enough quality to see this one out.
The Red Bulls have scored more goals than any other Austrian Bundesliga team this season (46), and Altach the fewest (10). The guests haven’t managed a win in nine games, whereas Salzburg have won four of their last five to sit top of the form table as well as the actual table.
Beleaguered Altach might feel a touch of relief as they go into this one with no pressure and nothing to lose, and they somehow took a point in the reverse fixture, yet even Salzburg’s lengthy injury list doesn’t stop us from expecting a lot of goals. Star striker Karim Adeyemi will be fully focused on ending his short dry spell and scoring his first goals of 2022, and if Benjamin Sesko, Noah Okafor and Sekou Koita are all out, there’s still room for hungry young players like Junior Adamu and Maurits Kjaergaard to start making a name for themselves in Salzburg colours.
SV Ried v Sturm Graz
Ried will come into Sunday’s meeting feeling very positive indeed after booking their place in the Austrian Cup final in midweek. In fact, they defeated Sturm Graz 2-1 back in October as part of another excellent cup run for the Upper Austrians. Sturm are coming in off the back of their first win of 2022, a comfortable 3-0 result last weekend which moved them up to second.
The Graz team are not only second in the table, they’re the second best ranked team away from home this season, but Ried have made the Josko Arena something of a fortress in the Bundesliga, and they’re sitting second in the home table!
Ried are right in the middle of a shootout for the all-important top six, something which will be decided this Sunday, so they’ll look to start strongly and put pressure on the teams above them. Felix Seiwald is a bit of a loss on the left after his suspension, but Ante Bajic, Dorgeles Nene and Stefan Nutz are all capable of creating chances for the hosts, who might fade a little as the game wears on after their midweek cup exploits. Sturm seem to be finding goals from all over the pitch at the moment, and they have a knack for winning penalties (six so far), so we fancy them to be in the goals as well in this game.
Admira Wacker v Austria Vienna
Admira are only one place off the bottom, but they put some distance between themselves and the foot of the table last time out with a win in a scrappy contest away at Altach. Austria, for their part, played out a highly entertaining game at home to Wolfsberg, where keeper Patrick Pentz saved two late penalty kicks to preserve a precious 1-0 victory. Austria’s win kept them right in the race for the top-six, and they know that three points against Admira would be enough to seal a spot in the Championship Group regardless of results elsewhere.
Both teams will have a key player missing on Sunday, Eric Martel is suspended for the visitors, and whilst he might be tough to replace like for like in midfield, Alexander Grünwald showed flashes of his former self as he rushed forward for Austria’s delightful winning goal last weekend. We think Admira’s top scorer Roman Kerschbaum will be a much bigger miss for the hosts; he kick-started the win last time out, and has popped up to contribute vital goals and assists all season for his struggling team.
Admira have drawn their last two games against Austria, but their home form is more than troubling, having lost each of their last five league games at the BSFZ Arena. The home head to head against Austria doesn’t read well for them either, with four defeats and a draw in their last five meetings in Mödling, a winless series which we think Austria will be able to extend for them on Sunday.
Wolfsberger AC v LASK
It’s third versus eighth as WAC take on LASK at the Lavanttal Arena, yet recent form says that the visitors won’t necessarily be the outsiders that the league table suggests. LASK have collected eleven points from their last five league games, behind only Salzburg, with whom they drew 0-0 on Wednesday evening. Wolfsberg have failed to score in their previous two matches, but they came mighty close on a number of occasions last weekend, and before that they ran Salzburg close for 85 minutes.
Looking past the recent slide, WAC have won their last six at home in the league and cup, a run stretching back to September, when they were again defeated by Salzburg. They will be more than keen to make up for their recent defeats and stay in touch near the top, and although they’re missing the defensive presence of Dominik Baumgartner, they’ll be facing a LASK side who ran themselves into the ground a few days ago, chasing the win they needed to stay in the top-six battle.
That was ultimately unsuccessful for LASK, despite a creditable draw against the leaders in which they forced the Salzburg keeper into the most saves he’s made all season (6). After good chances went begging for the industrious Thomas Goiginger and also Florian Flecker, the LASK attack will be out to prove that their recent form is no fluke. We think both teams will play with freedom given that the game is lacking the “final day” feeling of some of the other fixtures. If one team hits the front they are likely to find space for more against attacking opposition, so we think there will be a high scoreline here for one or both sides.
Rapid Vienna v Austria Klagenfurt
It’s bound to be an emotional occasion at the Allianz Stadium this weekend, as the man who led Rapid to their last league title returns to Hütteldorf in the away dugout. Klagenfurt coach Peter Pacult has been keen to remind everyone that the pressure is on the hosts, for whom a bottom-six berth would be almost disastrous. For his promoted side, the surprise package of the season, seeing it across the line and reaching the top-six on Sunday would be a sensational result, and they’re well positioned for it in fourth place ahead of the game.
Marco Grüll has been running at defences all season with abandon, but at the moment he’s one of few standout players in a Rapid squad who have looked tired since the European group stages began. They’re still lacking a major goal threat since target-man Ercan Kara left in winter, and the amount of different striking options that coach Ferdinand Feldhofer has tried lately suggests he doesn’t know how to solve the problem effectively. Another big issue for them is going without the experience of Thorsten Schick for such a big game. A key assist provider with a pinpoint cross, Rapid’s goal threat drops even further with his suspension.
Whilst Klagenfurt are keen to play the outsider’s role, it’ll be a big day for them in Vienna. Thousands of home fans will pile in after a special ticket offer was launched for this “finale”, meaning they’ll have to contend with a raucous atmosphere, and with the news that influential midfielder Patrick Greil will likely leave on a free transfer to Rapid at the end of the season, a few heads might take a while to settle into the occasion. They would dearly love to secure a top six place, but top scorer Markus Pink hasn’t found the net since late November, and with Darijo Pecirep suspended, we think they might struggle to score. Given the nature of the game as a nervy top-six shootout, and that Klagenfurt keeper Philip Menzel is one of the league’s best shot-stoppers with 3.6 saves per game, we think it’ll be a low-scoring affair.
Hartberg v WSG Tirol
Compared to most of the rest of the Bundesliga teams, Hartberg and WSG will have little to play for on Sunday, except preparing the ground for their run in the Relegation Group later in the Spring. Sitting in ninth and tenth respectively, both teams are destined to finish in the bottom-six, and will simply want to put distance between themselves and Altach in 12th before the points are halved. Hartberg are currently two points better off than their opponents, having picked up 22 points from their 21 games.
Hartberg have lost three on the bounce, including a demoralising defeat in the Austrian Cup semi-final in midweek, yet throughout the year they’ve shown that they can get goals. Five of their players have scored three or more times in this campaign, and if top scorer Dario Tadic doesn’t find the net, Philipp Sturm, Jurgen Heil and Donis Avdijaj have all demonstrated that they can take over with important goals from time to time. Set pieces could be a strong point for them too, as they face a WSG side who have a nasty habit of conceding penalties and dangerous free kicks, and with 42 goals conceded, the guests have the league’s leakiest defence.
The Tyroleans have shown glimpses of their potential without ever really putting a run together this season, but they’re still averaging close to 1.5 goals per game, and they’re up against a Hartberg team who can’t buy a clean sheet (none in their last 11 games) and who are also missing their first choice keeper Rene Swete through suspension. If Giacomo Vrioni is going to add to his impressive ten goal tally for WSG, he will fancy doing it in this game, and we feel that both teams are likely to get on the board over the 90 minutes in a match where there’s little reason for either coach to think defensively.
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