Monday, December 18, 2017

Prediction: HNK Rijeka vs Red Bull Salzburg

Verdict: HNK Rijeka to qualify

Best Odds: 4/6

Bookmaker: William Hill

Croatian champions HNK Rijeka impressed to record a 1-1 draw in the first leg and they are now in a good position to make it to the play-offs. Having failed to create an advantage seven days ago, Red Bull Salzburg get another chance to make things right, although they will not have an easy task at the sold-out Stadion Rujevica

HNK Rijeka

HNK Rijeka haven’t enjoyed a great deal of success in the first 65 years of existence, but the club started making giant strides over the last few years. Three successive second-placed finishes in the league largely dominated by Dinamo Zagreb were just a sign of things to come, and HNK Rijeka then went on to lift their first ever top flight title last term, thus ending Dinamo’s run of 11 straight league trophies. Rijecki bijeli fought bravely throughout the league campaign to finish two points above their bitter rivals, thus securing their place in the Champions League qualifying stages. The club managed to keep the squad together, while adding Nwolokor, Heber, Puncec, Djokovic and Jelic to their ranks, and they in turn enjoyed a good start to their European campaign. HNK Rijeka eased off to a 7-1 victory over The New Saints before they held Red Bull Salzburg to a 1-1 draw in Austria. The team now need to finish the job and secure progress to the final qualifying phase, and they are in good spirits after the 2-0 league triumph over Istra.

Team News

Head coach Matjaz Kek managed to rest some of his regular starters in said game, and he will now recall his strongest side.

Red Bull Salzburg

Red Bull Salzburg have been the dominant force on domestic stage in recent years, lifting eight of last 11 league titles, but they haven’t enjoyed a great deal of success in Europe. The team have yet to feature in the Champions League group stages, although they have so far played six times in the Europa League group phase. The Red Bulls were quite dominant in the league last term, finishing 18 points above Austria Wien, but they surprisingly decided to cash in on star striker Jonatan Soriano midway through the season. Hee-Chan Hwang and Takumi Minamino did well to compensate for his departure, while Munas Dabbur returned from a loan stint at Grasshopper. Few more quality players arrived this summer, namely Patrick Farkas and Marin Pongracic, but key midfielder Konrad Laimer was sold to Red Bull Leipzig. Just like their next opponents, Salzburg eased off to a 6-0 aggregate win over Hibernians (Malta), but they had bigger fish to fry against HNK Rijeka and definitely failed to impress. It remains to be seen whether they can make things right in the return leg.

Team News

New head coach Marco Rose faces serious selection problems seeing that Samuel Tetteh, Stefan Stangl, Marc Rzatkowski, David Atanga, Valentino Lazaro and Xaver Schagler are all unavailable.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Stadion Rujevica can only accommodate 6,000 people
  • Salzburg won last five fixtures on the road
  • HNK Rijeka won 10 successive home fixtures
  • They kept eight clean sheets in the process
  • Salzburg missing a host of first team players


HNK Rijeka appear to be in good form at the moment, they are at full strength and will be buoyed by the packed Stadion Rujevica. Red Bull Salzburg, on the other hand, are missing a number of important players and we don’t think they can make it to the next round.

Verdict: HNK Rijeka to qualify

Best Odds: 4/6

Bookmaker: William Hill





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