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Big Match Preview: LASK v Liverpool FC – The View From Austria

Liverpool Anfield
Rept0n1x, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

European competition is, once again, underway for Liverpool Football Club. This time it comes by way of the Europa League and in the shape of Austrian Bundesliga side LASK.  

Having never faced each other before, little is known about the Austrian side. So we at World In Sport had a chat with Austrian Journalist and Bundesliga expert Anna Konovalova to get to know the side from Linz a little more.  

What can you tell us about Linz and the Raiffeisen Stadium, in particular? 

Linz is Austria’s third-largest city lying on the Danube’s shores in the middle of the journey between Vienna and Salzburg. 

Raiffeisen Arena is one of the newest stadiums in the country (losing that title only to the Hofmann Personal Stadion in Linz as well, belonging to LASK’s city rivals Blau-Weiß Linz). It was opened only this February. Its construction and inauguration faced some controversy due to increased costs, simplified initial project, unreadiness in time at least for the first several games, and high-ticket prices. 

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Still, the stadium itself has a nice and comfortable layout, as it took inspiration in the brilliant new Tottenham ground. 

By the way, this inspiration from the Spurs’s stadium also resulted in the installation of a similar beer-pouring system that fills the cup from below – although one that is not as advanced, so fans quickly noticed that the beer leaks out from the bottom with a pretty decent speed. That ended up being branded as Beer-gate in the fan community and created many memes and jokes. 

How would you describe the fanbase? 

LASK have a loyal fan base – one of the most creative and noticeable groups in Austria. In the past several years, though, they have had a very cold relationship with the club board because of key disagreements on many topics. One of the biggest issues is the consistent use of the pink color (sponsor color coming from the BWT company, one of the club’s largest sponsors) in the design of their shirts and even entire away/third kits. This led to fan protests, and the banner demanding “kits only in colors that the founding fathers gave us” (that is black and white 

What can you tell us about the Lask manager? 

Thomas Sageder is a relatively young (40) and fairly inexperienced manager having his first top-tier stint this season. His CV contains the following lines of interest: several positions in the Red Bull Salzburg’s youth system (probably the best coaching school in the country), close work with Oliver Glasner at two clubs, and the head coach position at LASK’s derby rivals Blau-Weiß Linz in the 2nd tier. 

His arrival at the club was pretty unexpected (or, better said, the departure of his predecessor Dietmar Kühbauer this summer was a big surprise). After a slightly bumpy start of the season, his team seems to be on a good run lately, but that doesn’t help him to get less pressure and attention to his actions: his recent decision to demote Peter Michorl, ex-vice-captain and a long-time fan favorite, to the reserves was accepted very critically both by supporters and media. 

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How would you describe LASK’s Style of Play? 

Under Sageder, the team (boasting a disproportionally large roster and thus using a lot of rotation) took some time to form into a decently functioning collective, but his ideas started working in the past weeks. 

LASK saw transition back to 3-4-3 after several years of playing with a back-4, but, unlike no-possession Oliver Glasner times that all Austrian football fans remember with a smile some seasons ago, it’s a possession-based style with a significant share of horizontality and long passing sequences when the team has the ball. 

Another noticeable detail is that despite having a set-piece maestro in captain Robert Zulj in their ranks, set-piece impact has been surprisingly low this season. 

What Player(s) should Liverpool be mindful of? 

Clearly, it’s Robert Zulj, one of the strongest attacking midfielders in the league who was promoted to captain this season. His transition higher in attack to a flexible centre forward role was Sageder’s key decision to put the team on track. 

Is excitement building in Austria for the LFC visit? 

Absolutely. The excitement is clearly there, fans have been buzzing about this game since the draw, and the demand for tickets was very strong, despite the fact that the club was only selling triple packages for all European games at once. 

It also needed to be said that the club and the fans see this game as redemption for not having been allowed to have fans in the stadium in March of 2020 when their Round of 16 UEL game against Manchester United was one of the first games in the world ordered to be held behind closed doors – just 48 hours before the kick-off. Now nothing is supposed to spoil this true football party. 

What things would you recommend doing for travelling Liverpool supporters in Linz? 

Enjoy beautiful views of the Danube from its banks or, to get a higher perspective, from the hill with the castle in the centre, pop into one of Linz’s modern futuristic museums, and have a look at the majestic Mariendom, Austria’s largest cathedral. And try the Linzer cake, for sure: it’s a nice pastry based on shortbread and fruit jam. 

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What is the general expectation for the outcome of the game in Austria? 

It’s without a doubt going to be a very difficult game for LASK because of the well-known calibre of the opponent. Anything apart from a loss will be a big positive surprise for the club. 

Finally Anna, what is your score prediction for Thursday night’s game? 

LASK 0 Liverpool 2 

This represents the first time both clubs meet so there is a degree of excitement heading into the game, especially for supporters visiting a new city. With Liverpool being a strong candidate to win the competition, they will be looking to make a positive start in Linz

We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to Anna for taking the time to speak with us and offering a wonderful insight into LASK and the view from Austria.  


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