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Champions League: Salzburg’s spicy long-distance duel with Benfica

Champions League: Salzburg’s spicy long-distance duel with Benfica
Ulmer (right) was there for Salzburg’s last win in Spain to date.
Image: APA/AFP/KERSTIN JOENSSON

Austria’s football champions FC Salzburg, who are visiting Spanish sixth-placed Real Sociedad in the Champions League today (9 p.m., Servus TV, Sky, DAZN), do not necessarily have to face a showdown. If the “Red Bulls” get more points in the Basque Country than Benfica against Inter Milan at the same time, third place would be secured, the last match against the Portuguese on December 12th would be meaningless in terms of sport and a winter in international business would be guaranteed.

For the Mozartstadt team, the journey would then continue in the Europa League. That is the stated goal, even though the starting position is not exactly ideal. Salzburg coach Gerhard Struber is missing eight protagonists in Spain (Baidoo, Fernando, Terzic, Kjaergaard, Solet, Okoh, Wallner, Guindo), and the recent fickle performances do not give cause for boundless optimism. Anyone who struggles so much against Austria (0:0) and Hartberg (3:2) shouldn’t fill their mouths too much. Especially since Real Sociedad showed the red-white-red league croissants their limits in the first leg in Siezenheim. The blue-whites won 2-0. This time, at least on paper, they can take it easy, the round of 16 ticket is in their pocket. Maybe that increases Salzburg’s chances.

“It takes a very compact, very concentrated performance – away from dreams and towards what we can influence,” said Struber. The 46-year-old was encouraged by his courageous but ultimately unrewarding performances against Inter (1:2, 0:1). The young “cops” are still paying their dues.

The statistics don’t necessarily speak for them either. Of the last ten guest games in Spain, only one was won – on December 17, 2009 in the Europa League against Villarreal FC (1-0). At that time, Huub Stevens was FC Salzburg coach, Dusan Svento was the gold goalscorer and the indestructible Andreas Ulmer was the left-back. The Linzer (38) is fit again and will lead his team onto the pitch as captain today, almost 14 years later.

Neuer will stay in 2025

FC Bayern is already confirmed as the winner of Group A before today’s Champions League duel with FC Copenhagen. The Munich team, where Thomas Müller could make his 150th European Cup appearance, extended the contracts with their goalkeepers Manuel Neuer and Sven Ulreich until the summer of 2025. Bottom team Manchester United is under a lot of pressure, the “Red Devils” are visiting Galatasaray Istanbul. At Union Berlin, former Austria coach Nenad Bjelica makes his debut in Braga: “My job is to lead the team out of a difficult phase,” he said.

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