Thursday, March 30, 2023

Prediction: RB Salzburg vs AS Roma

Veselin Trajkovic in Free Soccer Predictions 15 Feb 2023


Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 31/20

Bookmaker: Unibet

The knockout stages in the Champions League have already begun, and it’s time for it to happen in the other two UEFA competitions as well. On Thursday, in the first leg of their Europa League encounter in the round of 16, RB Salzburg will welcome AS Roma to the Red Bull Arena.

RB Salzburg

Having initially qualified for the Champions League, the Austrian champions were drawn in Group E of elite European competition where they faced Chelsea, AC Milan and Dinamo Zagreb. The campaign started well enough as they avoided defeat at home against Milan and away to Chelsea and beat Dinamo at home, but following a draw in Zagreb in round four, they were beaten by Chelsea at home and thrashed in Milan. They finished third with six points, dropping down into the Europa League for consolation.

Over in the Austrian Bundesliga, however, Salzburg remain the dominant force, head and shoulders above the rest. With 17 matches played this term, they lead the way with 42 points to their name, six more than Sturm Graz in second and 12 more than LASK in third place. On the other hand, they’ve been eliminated from the Austrian Cup at the hands of Sturm, losing their quarterfinal contest on penalties.

Salzburg’s last-six run in all competitions includes that game, which initially ended in a 1-1 draw. It also includes a 1-0 home win over Hartberg, the 4-0 defeat away to Milan in the last round of the Champions League group stage, a 1-2 victory away to Wolfsberg, and a 0-1 victory away to Austria Klagenfurt; these matches were played between October 29th and November 13th, before the World Cup. A long winter break followed the tournament in Qatar, and after a number of friendlies, Salzburg resumed their season with a 4-0 thrashing of Austria Lustenau at home only a few days ago.

Enjoying such a long break has its merits, of course, but the lack of competitive rhythm probably won’t go in Salzburg’s favour at the moment.

Team News

It should be said that the RB Salzburg squad, under the command of head coach Matthias Jaissle, was the youngest fielded in the group stages of the Champions League. The average age of their starting lineups was just 22 years and 279 days. 

Defender Max Wober left the club in the winter, and Jaissle’s options at the back are further reduced by the absence of left-back Daouda Guindo, who recently underwent knee surgery.

Philipp Kohn will be in goal, with Strahinja Pavlovic and Oumar Solet as the centre-back pair. Amar Dedic will cover the right flank, while 37-year-old Andreas Ulmer, the captain of the club, covers the left. The midfield section, usually in deployed as a diamond, should have Lucas Gourna-Douath at its base, with Nicolas Seiwald on the left and Maurits Kjaergaard on the right. Luka Sucic should be the one in the No.10 position, supporting strikers Noah Okafor and Junior Adamu.

AS Roma

Roma aren’t quite as dominant in the domestic surroundings as Salzburg, but that’s obviously down to the fact that the Italian Serie A is at a completely different level to the Austrian Bundesliga. That said, the team bearing the name of the ancient city are having a relatively good season, sitting fourth at the moment with 41 points, the same tally as Atalanta in third and AC Milan in fifth. And with Inter Milan in second on 44 and Lazio in sixth on 39, the race for the top four and Champions League qualification will be a relentless affair between now and the end of May.

Much like Salzburg, Roma have been eliminated from the Italian Cup rather unexpectedly, by losing at home to bottom-side Cremonese in the quarterfinals.

Back in the Europa League, Jose Mourinho’s side suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Ludogorets, beat HJK at home by 3-0, and lost 1-2 at home to Real Betis, before bouncing back with a 1-1 draw away to Betis, a 1-2 win away to HJK, and a 3-1 home win over Ludogorets. They finished second in Group C with 10 points, six less than Betis and three more than Ludogorets, while HJK remained at the bottom with only a point to their name.

With the exception of that unhappy 1-2 defeat to Cremonese in the cup, Roma have been on fine form recently. They lost 2-1 away to Serie A leaders Napoli, but their last-six run in all competitions also includes a 2-0 home win over Fiorentina, a 0-2 win away to Spezia, a 2-0 win at home over Empoli, and a 1-1 draw away to Lecce.

Team News

Despite the best efforts of the club and Mourinho keep him in the Italian capital, attacking midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo insisted on leaving during the winter transfer window and, having come close to joining former Salzburg defender Max Wober at Leeds United, ended up going to Galatasaray instead.

Wing-back Leonardo Spinazzolla is absent through a hamstring issue and won’t be back until March. Midfielder Ebrima Darboe is out, probably for the season, with an ACL tear.

On the other hand, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has recovered from a broken leg, and Roma signed winger Ola Solbakken from Bodo/Glimt as a free agent in Janaury.

Rui Patricio will be in goal, with the trio of Chris Smalling, Roger Ibanez and Gianluca Mancini forming the back line. The middle of the park will belong to the pair of Bryan Cristante and Nemanja Matic, with Nicola Zalewski on the left and Zeki Celik on the right as the wing-backs. Lorenzo Pellegrini should play just behind forwards Paulo Dybala and Tammy Abraham.


Jose Mourinho is the master of knockout stages, and having already won the Conference League with Roma, thus becoming the first coach to win all three UEFA competitions, he’ll be looking to bring the Europa League trophy to the Eternal City next. That, of course, will be quite a challenge, but in order to keep the dream alive, Roma first needs to get past Salzburg.

And not to take anything away from the quality of the Austrian champions, Roma are the favourites to win here.

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 31/20

Bookmaker: Unibet


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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