Date:Tuesday September 26 2006
As an apocalyptic style clock ticks down, doomsday looms on Red Bull Salzburg.
Their official website ticks away the seconds, minutes, hours and days until Austria`s top team make the journey to scenic Lancashire, evidently nervous of what will happen when the ticking stops and play begins.
Since their pulsating encounter 12 days ago the fortunes of both sides have continued to differ but with a horrible twist of fate for Salzburg. As the lights went at the Bulls Arena it would seem a few are beginning to go off on Salzburg`s season.
As Rovers stumbled into their first European fixture in three years, carrying the shameful record of just one European win in 16 attempts, they were short on form, goals, communication and lady luck.
Quite the opposite to Salzburg who floated into the game on the wings of form financed by their high energy drinks sponsors; they were flying higher than they had done in previous years. They were top of the Austrian Bundesliga, unbeaten and could boast a 100% winning record at home, without conceding a European goal on their turf.
Then it all changed on 20:24 BMT when Robbie Savage curled the ball past Tim Ochs in Salzburg`s goal to swing momentum into the favour of Rovers. This would lead to a reversal in the performances of the sides on the pitch and in their respective ensuing results.
Both teams won their next game. Rovers eventually overcame a resilient Manchester City team to win 4-2 and Salzburg thoroughly trounced Sturm Graz but struggled to score goals. They had to settle for a 2-0 win in the end, when it should have been so much more.
Salzburg were seemingly picking up where they had left off in the League but a lack of confidence in front of goal and the disappearance of lady luck suggested things weren`t quite the same. Second half strikes from Janko and Zickler managed to lift a bit of the gloom beginning to surround Giovanni Trapattoni`s men.
Rovers went from strength to strength after recording their first away win of the season at Middlesbrough, winning 1-0, as Salzburg began to look shaky.
Trappatoni altered his formation to the more defensive four-five-one as they faced Sturm Graz again, only this time away from home. It was a tight affair but Sturm Graz came out on top; winning 2-1. Janko came off the bench again to score for Salzburg but a late equaliser from Nico Kovac was ruled out by the referee.
Trapattoni sounded nervous afterwards when speaking to their official web site:
"I preach again and again and again-it is a question of mentality to play. In Blackburn we will see a completely different crew at work-however; I require fullest employment in each play of each player."
Could it be their luck is running out and the wings have come off?
It`s hard to tell. Trapattoni won`t field a four-five-one formation for this particular away game because they need goals and generally perform better in a more solid four-four-two. He will likely recall all of his big men as they obviously caused Rovers problems. He will also use them to counter Rovers poignant threat from set-plays.
At the other end of the swinging pendulum of fate that so often interferes in football, Rovers are beginning to look like a more settled and accomplished side, demonstrating plenty of promise. Rovers look confident in their formation as the players finally begin to gel and are working to maximise the threat of the front men.
Confidence is high at Ewood Park like it was at the Bulls Arena before September 14. That night has affected both teams seasons but where will the doom be cast once the final whistle has been sounded?
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Date:Tuesday September 26 2006
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