Global Preview: European Qualifiers Heat Up

Both Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig will continue their quests for European qualifications, first with Salzburg on Wednesday against Shkendija and then Leipzig against Universitatea Craiova on Thursday. Both teams could take a major step forward in hopes of qualifying for the playoff round with strong performances in leg one.

Salzburg Face Macedonian Powerhouse

You may not have heard of Shkendija but the Macedonian side won the double in their country last season and could be a threat should Salzburg not take this game seriously. Manager Marco Rose will have to battle a confident side while also juggling injuries to squad players Stefan Lainer, Alexander Walk and Fredrik Gulbrandsen just to name a few.

“Shkendija were runaway Macedonian champions and cup winners, and have already made it through two rounds of qualifying,” said Rose in the lead up to the game. “They are sure to be difficult opponents who we need to be at our best against. It’s a Champions League match, after all, so everyone is sure to be giving their all.”

Shkendija was so dominant last season that they won their league by 35 points. Their confidence should be high but Salzburg has early form riding with them. They are undefeated this season with two wins in the league to bolster their efforts. Their success thus far in the Champions League should also prove to be a point of pride to carry them into this fixture.

“Anyone already talking about the Champions League playoff is making a big mistake,” said midfielder Diadie Samassekou. “Shkendija have plenty of quality in attack, above all. We need two very concentrated performances to make the next round.”

Leipzig Look to Shrug off Friendlies in Preparation for Europa Clash

RB Leipzig are coming off of a 3-0 loss to English Premier League side Huddersfield Town and want to put that behind them before their Europa League fixture against Universitatea Craiova on Thursday. The Romanian opposition finished third in their league last year and hope to be the dark horse in this competition with Leipzig as a potential giant to kill by comparison.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, particularly in physical terms,” said manager Ralf Rangnick after his team’s loss to Huddersfield. “There are big differences between the players. But the general attitude is good and now it’s our job to get all players, including those with injuries, into the best possible shape with some individual training.”

Leipzig has only had Europa League qualifies as meaningful games thus far this season, leaving the training staff to push a team still very much in preseason mode. European qualifiers can be tricky for this reason and a team like Craiova can’t be overlooked. This two-legged fixture will be all of Leipzig’s competitive games until the 19th when they play FC Viktoria Köln in the the first round of the DFB-Pokal (German Cup).

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