RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg have one game left in their respective playoffs and are hoping to lock in a place in the UEFA Europa League and Champions League respectively. Both fixtures ended scoreless, putting the pressure on the energy drink teams to perform at home or risk a season locked into their respective countries.
Leipzig and Salzburg Look to Lock European Place – GLOBAL PREVIEW
“It is clear we must win tomorrow,” said Leipzig manager Ralf Rangnick. “We’re assuming that (Zorya) Luhansk will play deep and look to score on the counter or on set-pieces. We’ve got stop this from happening, so everyone will have to be on the ball defensively. Up front we’ve got to be determined and force our opponents to make mistakes. We want to provide a constant threat, use the width of pitch and keep the tempo high.”
Rangnick pretty much described Red Bull football style but the team hasn’t been performing like that of late. Their opening game in the Bundesliga was a sobering 4-1 defeat to rivals Borussia Dortmund. Combined with the scoreless draw in Ukraine and the team may be doubting their ability to be a serious contender in Europe this year.
How did Leipzig’s expectations fall so low? Their first trip into the Bundesliga saw them finishing second in the league behind Bayern Munich and make their first trip to the Champions League. Now, one year removed from a disastrous run in the competition and a major step backwards in domestic form, Rangnick is tempering expectations for his side and hoping to keep them afloat for new manager Julian Nagelsmann next season.
“We’ll give it our all to win tomorrow,” said Rangnick. “We want to play in Europe again and that’s our main ambition. At the same time we want to improve and gain more experience of playing in Europe.”
Salzburg Looking to Lock in Champions League
For many years it appeared as if Red Bull Salzburg was the ownership’s third child. Despite being the first, they suffered from a little known league and tough entry into European competition. Now, they stand on the doorstep of the UEFA Champions League with Red Star Belgrade being the last obstacle in front of them.
“Everyone knows what it’s all about on Wednesday,” said manager Marco Rose. “We want to win, but for that we need to play well in our own stadium, and we hope our fans will support us. How much that can help us was shown by the matches against Dortmund and Lazio last season. For this challenge we should keep the pressure off as much as possible, as we have already achieved so much.”
Last season Salzburg stood on the doorstep of a Europa League final only to have it fall away in the second leg against Marseille. This time around, Rose’s team is not the underdog and expected to be a tough competitor in the competition should they make it. However, the task remains in front of them to defeat a legendary Serbian side that also finished first in their league last year and is looking to reclaim the glory of the past.
There is an added element of uncertainty since Salzburg couldn’t score in Serbia. Now, they will have to play tight defensively but with the freedom that has made them an exciting team in Europe. Manager Rose understands this but will need to get his team to execute in big moments which they proved they could do last year against top competition in Europe.