Europe will witness its first Red Bull derby as RB Leipzig face off against RB Salzburg in the UEFA Europa League this midweek.
RB Salzburg will have a glorious opportunity to prove themselves worthy of being a European powerhouse as they lock horns with sister club RB Leipzig on Thursday at the Red Bull Arena.
This will be the first competitive match against Austrian opponents for RB Leipzig, who will look to pick up from where they left off last weekend. The East German giants secured a hard-fought win over Hannover, where Timo Werner scored a brace while Emil Forsberg also chipped in with two assists. But, they will be cautious in their approach, especially after enduring a rough start to the season.
Salzburg, on the other hand, will be confident of their chances against the Bundesliga giants, given their rampaging start to the domestic campaign. Indeed, the Austrian champions have won all of their seven matches in the Austrian Bundesliga this campaign and are coming on the back of a convincing 3-1 win over St. Polten.
Xaver Schlager, youngster Hannes Wolf and substitute Fredrik Guldbrandsen were the scorers in their huge win last weekend. Thus, they will be confident of their chances of overcoming Leipzig in this highly anticipated fixture.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over both the sides, before their intriguing match-up this midweek.
Team news & tactics
Head coach Ralph Hassenhuttl is not expected to make many changes to the side that won against Hannover last week. Thus, we could witness the same 4-3-1-2 with second choice keeper Yann Mvogo in goal. The Swiss failed to impress in his debut campaign in the Bundesliga but will be eager to prove his credentials this week.
Nordi Mukiele could retain his place in the right-back position with Marcelo Saracchi being deployed on the opposite flank. Dayot Upamecano, however, could be introduced in place of Ibrahima Konate. He will partner Willi Orban in central defence. Leipzig have appeared tentative in possession under Hassenhuttl in the past 12 months or so, but the technical qualities of their centre-halves could aid their build-up play from the back.
In midfield, Stefan Ilsanker will retain his place as the central defensive midfielder with the duo of Kevin Kampl and Diego Demme partnering him in slightly advanced position. Kampl’s technical qualities coupled with Demme’s work-ethic could prove to be a deadly combination for Leipzig as they look to dominate Salzburg.
The Leipzig attack will be led by Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen, both of whom will be tasked with the responsibility of breaching an organized Salzburg defence. A lot will depend on whether or not Werner manages to maintain his fiery form after having scored a brace in the last game.
But, similarly, Emil Forsberg could also be a huge influence from the number ten position. And it will be interesting to see what measures do Salzburg take in order to nullify the Swedish playmaker.
Probable lineup(4-3-1-2): Mvogo; Mukiele, Orban, Upamecano, Saracchi; Ilsanker, Kampl, Demme; Forsberg; Werner, Poulsen.
Much like Leipzig, RB Salzburg are not expected to make any drastic changes either, though partly because of their limited resources as far as the quality is concerned.
Cican Stankovic will replace Alexander Walke in goal, screened by the four-man backline comprised of Stefan Lainer, Andre Ramalho, Marin Pongracic and club captain Andreas Ulmer. Ramalho, in particular, has an ample amount of experience of playing in the German Bundesliga and his presence could be key as Salzburg look to maintain their defensive solidity against the dangerous Leipzig attack this week.
In midfield, the trio of Xaver Schlager, Diadie Samassekou and Amadou Haidara will start at the base of the 4-3-1-2 formation. Samassekou and Haidara, in particular, have already raised quite a lot of eyebrows thanks to their consistent performances in the Austrian top flight as well as their cameo in the Europa league last campaign. The absence of Zlatko Junuzovic will be a huge blow for Salzburg, however.
Hannes Wolf is likely to be installed as the lone attacking midfield and Salzburg’s answer to Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg. The Austrian youth international was one of the breakout stars last season, scoring eight goals. His ability to carve out the opposing defence with his dynamism could be helpful for his side this week.
The Salzburg attack will comprise of Reinhold Yabo and star striker Munas Dabbur. Israeli international Dabbur has been undoubtedly the club’s highest scorer this season with four goals and he will be looking to extend his tally against Leipzig on Thursday.
Probable lineup(4-3-1-2): Stankovic; Lainer, Ramalho, Pongracic, Ulmer; Schlager, Samassekou, Haidara; Wolf; Yabo, Dabbur.
- Werner is Leipzig’s leading scorer in UEFA competition with seven goals in 13 appearances.
- Leipzig have won their last five European home matches, having won just one of their first four (D1, L2).
- Leipzig’s Peter Gulacsi, Stefan Ilsanker, Kevin Kampl, Konrad Laimer, Marcel Sabitzer and Dayot Upamecano all previously played for Salzburg.
- RB reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League in their first and only campaign to date, beating teams from Portugal, France, Italy and Russia along the way.
- Salzburg’s Junuzovic (Werder Bremen), Marin Pongracic (1860 Munich), Ramalho (Leverkusen and Mainz), Reinhold Yabo (Aachen, Arminia Bielefeld, Cologne and Karlsruhe), and coach Rose (VfB Leipzig, Hannover and Mainz) have all played in Germany.
Player to watch
RB Salzburg midfielder Diadie Samassekou was one of the breakout stars for his club last season and as mentioned earlier, he could certainly play a key role in this contest.
The young midfield sensation is blessed with incredible work ethic, which, in turn, allows his midfield partners in Haidara and Schlager to be more expressive in other aspects of the game. Indeed, Samassekou is more than willing to do the dirty work in the midfield and is often quite useful in pressing.
Last season, the 22-year-old produced a series of impressive performances not just on the domestic front but also in the Europa League. And thus, very few would bet against him replicating his form against RB Leipzig this midweek.
RB Leipzig 1-1 RB Salzburg
Given the huge similarities between the two sides, not just in ownership but also in terms of tactical philosophies implemented by each of the teams, it promises to be a fascinating encounter with both sides eager to kickstart their 2018/19 Europa League campaign on a positive note.
Salzburg are definitely the favourites here given their impressive form coming into this game. However, the Austrian giants might find it difficult to get the better of their German counterparts, largely due to their star-studded squadron. Therefore, we could expect no more than just a disappointing draw out of this one.