After a pause for international football, Champions League Group E resumes on Wednesday, as Red Bull Salzburg host Dinamo Zagreb in the first match of a double-header.
Set to reconvene in Croatia next week, the sides are separated by a point in the standings, having both denied group favourites Chelsea victory.
A week after kicking off their latest Champions League campaign with a creditable 1-1 draw against Italian champions Milan, RB Salzburg aimed to build on that start by causing an upset at Stamford Bridge.
The Austrian champions were forced to settle for another single-point haul, though, as they came from behind to hold Chelsea, with Swiss star Noah Okafor again scoring their only goal.
Leaving them two points adrift of leaders Milan but still above Graham Potter’s side in the table, Salzburg remain very much in the mix to reach the knockout stage in successive seasons – particularly if they fare well in two meetings with their Croatian counterparts over the coming days.
Matthias Jaissle leads a club participating in the Champions League group stage for a fourth straight season, and having qualified for the last 16 in 2021-22, the 34-year-old coach will be hungry for more.
With a win rate of over 70% since being appointed last year, Jaissle has continued Die Roten Bullen’s domestic dominance and is now aiming to guide them to a 10th consecutive Austrian Bundesliga title.
As Salzburg have won seven of 10 league games so far, they sit pretty at the top of the table; four points clear of LASK after drawing with their closest contenders on Saturday. Though Okafor and Slovenian star Benjamin Sesko both failed to score, Oumar Soulet’s last-gasp equaliser now brings their unbeaten run to an impressive 11 games.
Even though they have lost both of their previous encounters with Salzburg in continental competition, Dinamo Zagreb will arrive in Austria leading their third Group E opponents by a point, following a win and a draw from their first two fixtures.
After causing a seismic shock in the Champions League’s opening week by toppling 2021 winners Chelsea, Dinamo targeted another major scalp shortly before the international break, as they met Milan at San Siro.
So often a threat in the Europa League over recent years, Mislav Orsic followed up his winner against the Blues with a second-half strike versus the Rossoneri, but the home side also rattled in three of their own to leapfrog Dinamo at the top of the table.
Damir Krznar’s side return to the road this week, still seeking a first away win in the group stage since November 1998. In the intervening period, they have failed to record a victory in 19 subsequent attempts; losing 16 times in the process.
Since claiming their fourth consecutive Croatian championship earlier this year, though, Dinamo have recorded 10 wins and a draw from their first 11 league games in the current campaign.
Following Saturday’s 4-1 defeat of Slaven Belupo, they sit 11 points clear at the HNL summit, but with such success almost taken for granted, Krznar and company now turn their focus to ensuring their latest European adventure continues into 2023.
Red Bull Salzburg Champions League form:
Red Bull Salzburg form (all competitions):
Dinamo Zagreb Champions League form:
We say: Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb
Salzburg can continue their unbeaten run, as they inch closer to a spot in the last 16 with a win on home soil. The visitors are also in fine form, though, and will most probably push them all the way.