“We have to believe in ourselves and achieve what nobody else believes in,” said Austria coach Michael Wimmer despite a difficult starting position. Austria can only reach fourth place if, in addition to their own victory, they also receive support from Klagenfurt.
Rapid coach Zoran Barisic did not trust the supposedly good starting position for his team and only wants to look at his own task. “We are prepared that it will not be easy. We have to look to ourselves first and foremost,” said the Viennese.
Duel for Europe
A draw in Klagenfurt on Saturday is enough for Rapid to defend fourth place and a place in the European Cup. Austria, on the other hand, needs outside help on the one hand and has to beat champions Salzburg on the other.
Rapid focuses on himself
“In the case of Austria against Red Bull Salzburg, I can well imagine that Salzburg will not play with 100 percent and that Austria will have a knife between their teeth. We can’t count on this duel,” noted Barisic. He hopes for a focused performance from his eleven and reminded of the championship final in Germany. There Dortmund lost the title in the last round. “Nobody would have thought that possible.”
Masters group, 32nd round
Saturday 5 p.m.:
Klagenfurt – Rapid
Klagenfurt, 28 Black Arena, SR Gishamer
Klagenfurt: Menzel – Blauensteiner, Gkezos, Mahrer, Schumacher – Moreira, Benatelli – Wernitznig, Irving, Cvetko – Jaritz
Rapid: Hedl – Schick, Sollbauer, K. Wimmer, Auer – Kerschbaum, M. Oswald, Pejic – Kühn, Grüll – Burgstaller
In terms of personnel, everything remains unchanged at Rapid after the 3-2 win against Sturm Graz last week. Thorsten Schick is about to play his 100th game in the Bundesliga for Hütteldorfer. The right-back, team-mates and coach are all hoping to start their vacation on Sunday. If Rapid still falls back to fifth place, it will continue in the European Cup play-off next week. The statistics speak for early vacation: Klagenfurt has lost two of three home games against Rapid since promotion in 2021 and has drawn once.
Rapid season with many ups and downs
After a season with ups and downs like the embarrassing European Cup defeat against Vaduz, the separation from coach Ferdinand Feldhofer and reaching the cup final in spring, the question remains how the season will be summed up. “In view of everything that has happened this season, I would call fourth place a success. Than what this season was for us inside,” said Barisic.
He puts his trust in Guido Burgstaller again, who scores like clockwork and will probably be crowned top scorer on Saturday. The 21-time goalscorer of the season has contributed a goal in each of the last eight league games in which he has played. In the Bundesliga, Roland Kollmann was the last to do that for GAK in August and September 2003.
Klagenfurt remains combative
At Rapid, you expect a combative opponent and a coach with a Hütteldorf past, who wants to do it again against his ex-club. In the Carinthian camp, frustration was the order of the day this week after the championship group would definitely finish sixth, like last year. “We can’t do anything more in the table, but there are three points up for grabs that my team really wants to get,” emphasized coach Peter Pacult.
Midfielder Christopher Cvetko was combative: “I didn’t feel any tension drop in training after the game in Salzburg. On the contrary, it is our aim to prove once again that we can
are right in the top play-off.”
Klagenfurt says goodbye to some actors
While defender Kosmas Gkezos extended this week to 2025 at Austria, Maximiliano Moreira, Michael Blauensteiner, Fabian Miesenböck and Florian Rieder, among others, will say goodbye before kick-off. Managing director Matthis Imhof also says goodbye, he is moving as sports director to SV Sandhausen, which has been relegated from the second German league.
Imhof’s successor could come from Munich. It was rumored that 1860 sports director Günther Gorenzel should be in the Klagenfurt’s sights. Austria would probably have to pay a fee for the native of Graz. According to the Munich newspaper “tz”, Gorenzel also has an offer from St. Petersburg, but he does not want to accept it for moral reasons.
Austria wants to “attack”
At Wiener Austria there is no doubt about the approach of his team in the last game of the master group, as Wimmer asserted before his 16th game as Austria coach (five wins, four draws, six defeats). “With the fans behind us, we can’t play timidly or hesitantly. We will attack, defend well and play boldly forward.”
Masters group, 32nd round
Saturday 5 p.m.:
Austria – Salzburg
Vienna, Generali Arena, SR Ebner
Austria: Früchtl – Mühl, Martins, Meisl – Ranftl, Jukic, Holland, Baltaxa – Fischer, Fitz – Tabakovic
Salzburg: Köhn – Van der Brempt, Solet, Baidoo, Ulmer – Kjaergaard, Gourna-Douath, Kameri, Forson – Koita, Adamu
You want to be prepared for the eventuality of a Rapid defeat in Klagenfurt. “Who knows if we make the impossible possible here and win…” explained Wimmer. If both cases occur, you would have a place in the third qualifying round for the Conference League.
Wimmer: “The most important game is the next one”
If the venture goes wrong – as has always been the case in the 16 competitive duels with Salzburg since Austria’s last win on May 27, 2018 – you have to go into “overtime” as fifth in the play-off on Thursday or Sunday of the coming week. The opponent is the winner of the semifinals (Monday) between the WAC and Lustenau or Hartberg. According to Wimmer, however, as always, the focus is only on the immediate future. “Of course we have all facets in mind, including Thursday. But we can’t be considerate and spare something. The most important game is the next one,” emphasized the German.
With a laissez-faire approach from Salzburg, who were crowned two weeks ago, no one is speculating in the distribution circle. “I can’t imagine the reigning champion playing with the handbrake on. I’m counting on a Salzburg team that will throw everything onto the pitch,” said Wimmer, whose eleven have only won one game in the champions’ group so far (3-1 in the derby against Rapid). Sports director Manuel Ortlechner verbally assisted: “I don’t think they’ll come and say: ‘We’ll finish it comfortably’.”
Salzburg “not yet in vacation mode”
In any case, Salzburg coach Matthias Jaissle asserted that his team was “not yet in vacation mode”. “We want to end the summer break with a win. It would be a cool story to end the season with just one loss. In addition, it is also a question of sporting fairness that we try to get everything out again.”
Jaissle has to do without a total of ten players due to injury, for Benjamin Sesko and Nicolas Seiwald (both moving to Leipzig) it is the prospect of the provisionally last minutes of the game for the “Bulls”. The same may apply to striker Junior Adamu, who is being linked in the media with a move to Freiburg.
Austria talent extends injury misery
The list of injuries at Austria is less long, but the youngest newcomer is all the sadder. Ziad El-Sheiwi tore his cruciate ligament for the third time in 16 months this week. Austria still believe in the 19-year-old left-back. “He is a special footballer, writes a special story, so it will be a special comeback,” said Ortlechner.
Because the Israeli loanee Doron Leidner is also out due to the same injury, Matan Baltaxa could play on the left defensive side against Salzburg. In any case, the position should be keeping Ortlechner busy at the moment: “It’s obvious.” According to Wimmer, central defender Lucas Galvao, who has not played a game all spring due to injury, is “definitely an issue for Saturday”.
Sturm wants the first win of the season against LASK
At the end of a successful season for both teams, Sturm received LASK in front of a full house. Before the last day of the game, the Grazers have already been confirmed as runners-up, and the Linzers are also in third place. “We want to show a worthy end to the season and go to the performance limit,” said Sturm coach Christian Ilzer, whose team was only unable to defeat LASK in the Bundesliga season.
Masters group, 32nd round
Saturday 5 p.m.:
Storm – LASK
Graz, Merkur Arena, SR Pfister
Sturm: Siebenhandl – Gazibegovic, Affengruber, Wüthrich, Dante – Hierländer, Gorenc Stankovic, Kiteishvili, Prass – Sarkaria, Emegha
SHOT: Lawal – Stojkovic, Ziereis, Luckeneder, Potzmann – Horvath, Michorl – Flecker, Zulj, Nakamura – Mustapha
Sturm inflicted at least one defeat on all of the other ten opponents. So far, however, there has only been one point from three encounters against LASK, and this balance should be polished again at the end. “We’re playing against a top opponent. I’m expecting a great game, after which we can celebrate. Everyone deserves that,” said Ilzer.
Grazer with a successful season
In the league, Sturm was in close contact with Salzburg for a long time and kept the championship race open until three laps before the end. In addition, Graz won the ÖFB Cup, on the way there they eliminated LASK in the semifinals. Despite the unfortunate exit from the Europa League group stage, Sturm also proved his own class several times internationally. “It was a fantastic journey with many highlights, but also one or two painful hours,” analyzed Ilzer.
In the course of the final home game, players who deserved a storm will be bid farewell. The outgoing goalkeeper Jörg Siebenhandl received a guarantee against LASK from Ilzer: “Jörg will start tomorrow, he deserves it.” In addition to Siebenhandl, Sandro Ingolitsch, Ivan Ljubic and Albian Ajeti, who was loaned out by Celtiv Glasgow, will also leave the club.
LASK hopes for a positive conclusion
An extremely successful season for LASK also comes to an end on Saturday. After a sovereign first round, the Linz team gained a gear in the master group, only recorded one defeat in this group and consolidated third place with a solid lead. Coach Dietmar Kühbauer is still hoping for a positive conclusion. “Nothing can change in the table, but we still want to play well on Saturday,” said the coach.
Due to the fact that the game was meaningless in the table, Kühbauer was aware that the air was sometimes a bit out. “But there are definitely two very good teams going against each other, so it can definitely get intense again.” It remained unclear until the very end whether Alexander Schlager, who had been the goalkeeper for many years and had left for Salzburg, would be used again at the end. In the last laps, his successor Tobias Lawal was already guarding the Linz goal.