For Red Bull Salzburg, an intense fall comes to an end on Saturday with the away match against TSV Hartberg. In the first game after out in the Champions League and at the same time the last match before the winter break, Austria's series champion wants to mobilize all his strength again to keep the two points behind LASK in the Bundesliga at a distance.
Coach Jesse Marsch must rotate with the second-strongest home team in the league – even the "Bulls" are the strongest on home soil. Erling Haaland is unavailable due to abdominal muscle problems, and the efforts of Hwang Hee-chan and Rasmus Kristensen are extremely questionable.
Despite the tense staff situation, nothing has changed in terms of goals. "For us, the game is very, very important. We have to get three points," said Marsch, with an urgent warning against the opponent. "Hartberg has played the last five or six games very well and has achieved many good results. It is difficult to survive in Hartberg."
Should Salzburg leave Oststeiermark undefeated, Marsch would set a new record. The American is currently sharing the record with ex-Rapid coach Vladimir Markovic (1985) for surviving the first 17 Bundesliga matches without defeat. "But it's not that important to me. Good results and good performance are important," Marsch emphasized.
Markus Schopp: "Do not believe in a lighter remaining program for Austria"
While the defending champion is fighting for the winter crown, Hartberg's goal is to secure a sixth place. Five rounds before the end of the foundation round, the lead over the seventh placed Austria is seven points. The current positions are a "great story," said coach Markus Schopp. "We have always progressed positively, but we must always give everything to every opponent."
The ex-team player did not dare to predict whether it would be enough to eventually join the champion group. "We have no use in making estimates. We still have five final games and want to get as many points as possible from them."
Schopp has registered that the "Violins" hope to catch up and jump into the top six. "If it is the case that Austria has the easier remaining program than we do, we take note of it. But I don't think so." The favorites are after the home game against WAC in the spring against Altach (a), Salzburg (h), Sturm Graz (a) and St. Pölten (h), Hartberg is waiting for WAC (a) in the coming year, Rapid (h), LASK ( a) and WSG Tirol (h).
Hartberg coach Schopp: "Salzburg will not enter the winter break as number two"
For now, however, Schopp is only concerned with the game against the "bulls". "A home game against them is a great story. On the other hand, we know what their quality is. But our home record shows what we can do in Hartberg. We want to get it all out again in the last game of the year," Schopp announced . Hartberg's home run record is five wins, one draw and two losses.
Schopp does not believe in the opponent's lack of strength and motivation. "LASK is only two points behind and extremely hungry, and Salzburg certainly does not want to go into the winter break like others." The Styria does not see Salzburg falling back on a few reservists as a benefit to Hartberg. "No matter who's on the field, all Salzburg players have a lot of quality. For us it can be more dangerous if players come with less time because they want to prove themselves."