Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Europa League clash between Austria Vienna and Fenerbahce, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Austria Vienna host Fenerbahçe in the first leg of their Europa League qualifying playoff on Thursday.
The Austrians will be hoping for a positive result on home soil before next week’s tricky trip to Istanbul.
Having failed to qualify for the group stage of any European competition since the 2017-18 season, Thursday’s playoff match against Fenerbahce is a huge opportunity and occasion for Austria Vienna’s players and fanbase alike.
With Red Bull Salzburg dominating Austrian football with nine successive title triumphs in the past decade, opportunities in European football have inevitably become more limited for Die Veilchen.
They were the last team to break Salzburg’s stranglehold, of course, by winning the Austrian Bundesliga in 2012-13, before qualifying for the Champions League group stage the following campaign. However, only two group stage appearances in the Europa League have come since then, with last season’s third-placed finish their highest league placing in five years.
Indeed, former Austria defender Ferdinand Feldhofer has made an excellent impact since taking over as head coach in November 2021, with the 42-year-old boasting a 45% win rate from his 31 games in charge so far.
Feldhofer will desperately be hoping that statistics improve rather than regress come the end of Thursday’s test against Fenerbahce.
Fenerbahce, on the other hand, competed in the Europa League group stage just last season, when they finished third behind Olympiacos and eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt.
After finishing second in the Turkish Super Lig last season – their best placing for four years – the Yellow Canaries have since attracted Jorge Jesus as head coach, with the 68-year-old bringing a wealth of European experience and success to the club.
Despite being unfortunate to lose to Dynamo Kiev after extra time in the Champions League qualifying rounds, Jesus has clearly inherited a talented squad at his disposal, especially after adding the likes of João Pedro, Name Mor and Diego Rossi to their attack during the summer transfer window.
Fenerbahce’s attacking capabilities were on full display during Monday’s 6-0 thumping away to Kasimpasa, who were reduced to 10-men after only 16 minutes. Joshua King, Enner Valencia, Arda Guler and Mor all got themselves on the scoresheet during the rout.
While Jesus will expect a much tougher test in Vienna on Thursday, there is little doubt that his side have the potential to blow their opponents away if everything clicks for them.
Austria Vienna form (all competitions):
Fenerbahce Europa League form:
Fenerbahce form (all competitions):
Austria Vienna appears to have a whole host of injury concerns, with Johannes Handl (shoulder), Marko Rugaz (knock), Matan Baltaxa (ankle), Andreas Gruber, Ziad El Sheiwi (both knees), James Holland and Armand Smrcka (both ligament) all unlikely to feature against Fenerbahce.
Lucas Galvao was sent off during the weekend’s 2-1 win against WSG Tirol, but the Brazilian centre-back should retain his place as his ban will only apply to league matches.
Fenerbahce, meanwhile, have several fitness problems themselves. The Turkish runners-up will likely travel to Vienna without Serdar Aziz (groin), Nazim Sangare (knee), Irfan Kahveci (knock), Mert Hakan Yandas (unknown) as well as new signing Pedro (thigh).
Having cruised to a routine victory against 10-men Kasimpasa on Monday, Jesus was able to bring the likes of King and Valencia off early, while the likes of Rossi and Miguel Crespo were only used from the bench and should start here.
Austria Vienna possible starting lineup:
Fruchtl; Ranftl, Muhl, Galvao, Graca; Fischer, Braunoder, Wustinger, Huskovic; Fitz, Tabakovic
Fenerbahce possible starting lineup:
Bayindir; Osayi-Samuel, Henrique, Szalai, Kadioglu; Arao, Zajc, Crespo; Mor, King, Rossi
We say: Austria Vienna 1-1 Fenerbahce
Despite the visitors boasting superior individual quality, we can envisage Austria Vienna digging in to claim a draw.
That outcome would probably suit both parties, with Fenerbahce feeling that they are far more likely to win in front of a raucous Sukru Saracoglu Stadium next Thursday.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.