5 Reasons why Red Bull Salzburg are the dark-horses of the Europa League

FUSSBALL - BL, RBS vs Rapid

1. Domestically they average over 3 goals per game.

In the current campaign Roger Schmidt’s men have managed to score an astonishing 88 goals over the 26 league games they have currently played, meaning on average they score 3.38 goals each game. To put this statistic into perspective, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich has managed to score on average exactly 3 goals per game. Although Bayern Munich are in a much tougher league, they have also spent a significantly larger sum of money compared to the Austrian side.

The main basis behind Die Rotten Bullen’s huge flurry of goals comes down to the S&S (Suarez and Sturridge) of the Austrian league, Soriano and Alan. Soriano, an ex La Masia student with an eye for goal, has terrorized the defences of any side he has faced both domestically and in Europe. He is currently the top scorer in both the Austrian Bundesliga with 23 goals to his name and also in the Europa League where he has managed an equally as impressive 7 goals. To play alongside one of Europe’s most prolific goal scorers is Alan; a typical Brazilian striker poised with elegance and flair, he has managed to find the net 21 times since coming back from a cruciate ligament injury which saw him out of the game for 18 months.

2. They have created a fortress at the Red Bull Arena.

Over the course of the 2013/14 season they are currently unbeaten at home in all competitions. They have come out victorious in every single one of their Europa Leagues games at home and in the league they have only been held to a draw on 2 separate occasions, the rest being wins. Their home record is that impressive that they currently have the best home record out of any top-flight European team. They also defeated the current world club champions at home, showing that no level is to high for them at this arena (see no.5)

3. They have perfected the art of pressing.

Roger Schmidt may not be the first name you think of when discussing innovative and exciting managers but with what he has achieved with this Red Bull side he certainly deserves to be up there with the best. He has brought in a new modern style of play that is all about as being as efficient as possible, their play focuses predominantly on pressurizing and ensuring the opposition cannot get the ball into effective areas on the pitch.

Pressing is now something that sets the baseline to determine how good a team is; if you can press well you have the nucleus of a strong team. However it is not as simple as it sounds, pressing is an art, it has to be carried out correctly otherwise it can be your greatest weakness. In order to press well it is also a prerequisite that all your players have an extremely high level of fitness, something Schmidt’s team has in abundance; all 24 outfield players in that squad are capable of chasing the ball throughout the whole 90 minutes. Another essential factor to press well is to have players that can communicate effectively and chase in packs.

The Austrian side is set up with Soriano and Alan pressing from the front, this is then supported by Kampl on the right and Mane on the left, the two fullbacks (often Klein and Ulmer) both prevent the ball being played to the opposition’s wide players. In the centre of the pitch are Ilsanker and Leitgeb, who sit just behind their opponents midfielders and wait until the pass is played to them before they pounce and put the opponents under a heap of pressure, often causing them to make mistakes or play a long ball which results in the two centre backs retrieving the ball with ease. This aspect of their play has been fundamental to the success they have currently achieved this season.

4. They have developed a prominent youth system that is beginning to produce some of Europe’s finest talents.

Red Bull Salzburg have wisely decided to invest in their youth system and now they are reaping the benefits as they currently have 8 players that have come through the academy and into the first team. There is also an exciting group of talent on its way in the near future, with Valentino Lazaro the player leading the pack, making his debut for the club at the tender age of 17.

From having such a large proportion of their squad from the youth system it results in the team having an invaluable connection, meaning they are sub-consciously aware of where their team mates are located on the field. Through all the players being on the same wavelength it results in a finely tuned team, that has now developed a sixth sense.

5. They beat Bayern Munich!

They didn’t just beat Guardiola’s men, they trounced them 3-0. Bayern could not get to grips with the pace and energy of this Salzburg side, Pep could share nothing but praise in the post-match interview.

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“Salzburg were very aggressive, quick and intelligent,” said the Spaniard.

“In all my career, I have never seen a team play with such high intensity.”

So from the evidence that was showed against Bayern Munich and more recently versus reigning Dutch Champions Ajax, I believe this side has all the capabilities to pull off a major upset in this year’s Europa League. While Juventus will remain the bookies favourite we should all be watching out for the dark horse lurking behind them.

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