Admira Wacker v WSG Tirol
Admira have been the draw specialists of the Relegation Group, sharing the spoils four times in their last six matches, and this time they’re hosting a WSG side who have shocked everyone with a mighty four wins from their last five games to not only secure their Bundesliga safety, but also top the group at this late stage of the season.
The hosts will be up against it with some major personnel problems, as defender Sebastian Bauer is suspended for accumulating yellow cards, as well as the club’s second-top scorer Marlon Mustapha. Add in a season-ending injury to Roman Kerschbaum, who has been the keystone in the midfield for Admira as well as scoring more goals than any of his colleagues, and coach Andi Herzog is left with some major headaches for this game.
WSG on the other hand will have the freedom of safety to boost them on their trip to the BSFZ Arena. Top spot would be a nice bonus for the Tirol club, but it’s undoubtedly an extra target, and they’re unlikely to be feeling the pressure of going on to win the group. Thomas Silberberger’s team have found goals again lately, especially in the final 15 minutes of games, so with Giacomo Vrioni on fine form, Thomas Sabitzer looking good in front of goal, and a positive mood in the camp, we can see WSG edging this one.
Altach v SV Ried
The real relegation drama is in Altach this weekend, as the bottom two teams go head to head, with both having picked up just a solitary point in their last three matches. Altach looked to be on their way towards a great escape before their form stalled, whereas Ried have had a dismal run in the Relegation Group, and new boss Christian Heinle hasn’t yet been able to arrest the sharp decline. Heinle will also have to pick his team up from a 3-0 defeat in the Austrian Cup final from last Sunday, although Ried should be the sharper of the two sides in the early stages, having played more recently.
Both teams have a player suspended for the game at the Cashpoint Arena, the hosts will have to do without Felix Strauss, the defender who has done well as a youngster in the middle of a tough season, even showing his mettle by scoring a precious late goal not too long ago. For Ried, Marcel Ziegl was arguably their best performer over the past few weeks, with excellent games against LASK and Admira seeing him grab a goal and an assist despite his hard work being done in the defensive midfield.
The loss of these players, and a lack of momentum in the league, is likely to leave both defences vulnerable on Saturday. The three meetings of this campaign add up to an aggregate score of 4-4, and 4 points taken each, and although it’s incredibly risky to go for one side over the other in this relegation six-pointer, we feel that both teams will be going at it hammer and tongs to try to secure the points, and we’re therefore likely to see more three or more goals.
LASK v Hartberg
LASK made headlines midweek by bringing in former Rapid Vienna coach Dietmar Kühbauer to replace the struggling Andi Wieland. Kühbauer is a fiery character to say the least, and won’t be taking it easy on this underperforming LASK squad, but will they rise to the occasion and impress their new boss? He’s not the most popular appointment amongst the fans in Upper Austria; his tenure in charge of Rapid was mostly effective, but the football was far from the attacking style that LASK pride themselves on playing. Whilst he might not be the perfect fit long-term, he should get them over the line to safety this season.
Both teams come into this game off the back of a 4-0 result. Whilst LASK were on the wrong end of a shock drubbing, Hartberg took a massive stride towards safety by beating Altach comfortably. Just when they looked down and out, Dario Tadic and Seth Paintsil showed that they can get goals again, and they’ve moved Hartberg up to third, one place behind their opponents, and five points away from the drop. They were aided hugely by a red card in their last game though, and their underlying problems might return here against a LASK team with more talent in the squad.
Just two wins each since the league split indicate that both teams have struggled a lot, but they cancelled each other out in the last meeting despite LASK going close to getting the win. Attacking and defensive records are very similar for both teams, but Hartberg will miss Manfred Gollner at the back more than LASK will miss Yannis Letard, and we feel that the “new manager bounce” plus a generally favourable home record should be enough to get LASK over the line in this one.
Austria Klagenfurt v Sturm Graz
Sturm Graz paid their respects to “Trainer of the Century” Ivica Osim, who passed away this week aged 80 after winning several league and cup titles with Sturm in the late 1990s. The Grazers will undoubtedly want to honour their biggest hero with a win on the pitch this Sunday, and they’re in a good position to do just that, having secured second place and Champions League qualification for next season, and doing it by beating Salzburg, no less.
Five wins from their last six games is a very impressive record for Sturm in the Championship Group, and their attacking philosophy has paid dividends with Manprit Sarkaria getting 12 goals from attacking midfield, and Jakob Jantscher amassing 25 scorer points in 27 games (12 goals, 13 assists) to become the Bundesliga’s de facto “MVP”. Rasmus Hoejlund has added six goals since his winter arrival, and Sturm’s effective attack are going up against the worst defence in the group; the Klagenfurt back line have leaked 52 goals in their 29 games.
One thing Austria Klagenfurt do have in their locker is the entertainment factor. They’ve only failed to find the net twice in their last 11 games, and only one of their last eight fixtures has ended with anything like a low score (1-1). Sturm should have enough firepower to get the win, but the value of three goals or more is better, and with players capable of finding the net at both ends, plus Klagenfurt suffering from a glut of red cards in the league, we’re expecting another goal-fest.
Red Bull Salzburg v Wolfsberger AC
Salzburg slipped to just their second defeat of the season last time out, but Matthias Jaissle rotated his team and brought in some fresh young faces after winning the league title, and had the build-up to an ultimately successful cup final in the forefront of his mind. Sturm Graz just about had the quality to inflict that loss, but even though Wolfsberg are fighting for European football, it’ll be a tough ask for them to do the same in Salzburg.
Losing five on the bounce earlier in the year has undone much of the momentum of the season for WAC, and although they’ve wrestled some of that back with four points from their last two matches, the Salzburg players will be hot favourites on Sunday. With the domestic double done and dusted, there may well be another chance for hungry young players like Kamil Piatkowski and Junior Adamu to prove themselves, and they won’t want to miss the chance a second time around. With Luka Sucic and Benjamin Sesko looking deadly in front of goal in 2022, even resting Karim Adeyemi would not seriously weaken the prospects of an attack that can score with intricate passing moves, long range shots or pinpoint crosses.
Wolfsburg’s main men Michael Liendl and Tai Baribo have had less of an impact in the Championship Group than they would have wanted, and with Klagenfurt on their heels, the team will be forced to push forward in search of a result in Salzburg, something that is likely to leave them tiring down the home straight. That has been a crucial element in Salzburg’s success too, and they can bring on pace and power from the bench just as the opposition defence starts to flag. It may come late, but we think Salzburg will run out comfortable winners by full time.
Austria Wien v Rapid Wien
The last time one of these two teams won a Vienna Derby was all the way back in 2019! Austria have come out on top in just one of the last nine meetings on their patch in Favoriten, it’s a curious run which has seen six draws on the bounce, and with lots at stake this Sunday, it’s more than likely to be close again. Rapid are in third, two points ahead of their city rivals in the table, and with third spot guaranteeing lucrative European group stage football for next season, there are literally millions of Euros on the line this time.
Referee Christopher Jäger surprisingly got the nod to officiate his first Vienna Derby, he’ll be hoping not to make too many headlines, but he’s likely to face a stern test in a typically fiery contest. Austria are missing the influential midfielder Eric Martel through suspension, but the issues are worse for Rapid with goalkeeper Niki Hedl also serving a suspension just as he was looking settled between the sticks, and the tall physical presence of forward Ferdy Druijf – who scored a solid brace last weekend and could have been just the right striker for an away derby – absent through injury.
It’s tough to pick a side here, as Austria are winless in six, and Rapid for their part have just one victory in their last six, and that was a 2-1 win against WAC which came totally against the run of play. Derby results and form-books are notoriously bad companions though, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a new hero emerge with a winner for either team, propelling them into pole position for that all-important third place; even less surprising however, would be another score draw.
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