Rovers Off The Bottom, Salzburg Top
Blackburn Rovers managed to scrape through against Sheffield United on Saturday thanks to the heroics of Brad Friedel. It was a similar story in Austria as Rovers' forthcoming opponents, Red Bull Salzburg, needed a ninety-third minute equaliser against Rapid Wien.
Austria's leading league side once again played with a four-five-one formation, leaving the formidable Nico Kovac sat in front of the back four. Rapid Wien went ahead in the thirty-first minute but were subjected to large periods of pressure from Salzburg throughout.
Salzburg enjoyed fifty-five percent of the match possession, which consequently engineered fifteen attempts on goal. However, it wasn't until their last effort in the ninety-third minute that they found the back of the net. Solid defender, Milan Dudic rose superbly to power a header in from the impressive Nico Kovac's centre.
It would appear Kovac, despite being a defensive-minded player, pulls all the strings for Salzburg, much in the same way as Tugay does for Rovers. He will be a huge threat on Thursday as will the returning Alexander Zickler. He started the game at the weekend on the bench before appearing as a half-time substitute. Despite being top-scorer at the Red-Bull Arena, Zickler has had a number of injury problems. Many believe he was being rested by Trapattoni with Thursday's game in mind.
Rovers can also expect a physical fight on Thursday as Salzburg enjoy a tough tackle or two. This comes as no surprise when their team has players such as Kovac, Thomas Linke and Milan Dudic. They managed to have over half of their team booked on Sunday having dished out no less than thirty fouls.
It all points to a difficult encounter for Mark Hughes' men. A tough tackling, free-scoring unbeaten start to the season for Salzburg is embarrassingly opposite to a winless Rovers side with just one goal to their name. Additionally, Salzburg have won both of their previous European games and what is more disconcerting is they haven't yet conceded a European goal at home. They beat F. C. Zurich two-nil and then beat one of Spain's top teams and twice European Cup finalists, Valencia C. F. one-nil.
Rovers will have to improve on a poor record of just fifteen goals in sixteen European games if they stand any chance of progressing. Strangely enough we seem to score more goals away from home in Europe and Hughes will certainly be hoping the lads continue that trend on Thursday night.
Salzburg have been given permission to use their artificial pitch for the encounter but Hughes isn't concerned about this. He is quoted in the News of the World saying, "It is a new experience for the players. But the surface isn't too dissimilar to our artificial training pitch."
So we wait with bated breath to see who will score Rovers next European goal and what our next European result will be. Incidentally, in keeping with Simon Garner Legend`s recent article about Matt Jansen as a Rovers legend, he was the last player to score for the blue and white halves in Europe. He gave us the lead against Genclerbirligi in the second leg at Ewood Park on 15th October 2003. We eventually drew the tie one a piece and crashed out four-two on aggregate. Let's hope that we fare better this time.
Will our season finally take off on Thursday night?
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