This was not our best case scenario on the Europa League draw. Red Bull Salzburg drop the the Europa League knockouts after failing to advance from a Champions League group no one would have expected them to finish second in. They’ve seen Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid twice each already this season, losing all four matches but only being shut out once. There are a variety of opinions about Champions League group teams dropping down into this competition but in Salzburg’s case it’s probably just that they get another chance to compete in Europe after getting drawn into that group.
As one would expect, they are currently in first place in the Austrian Bundesliga, where in eleven matches they already have a +25 goal differential. Their manager Jesse Marsch, is an American who cut his teeth in MLS and entered Red Bull’s system with their New York side before moving to Austria. The Princeton University graduate (for you non-Americans, Princeton is one of the most prestigious universities in America) follows the same principles that mark Red Bull clubs’ style of play all over the globe: intense counter-pressing and fast paced attacking football.
I actually think this is a favorable matchup for us. Our friends over at Into the Calderon let us know on Twitter that Salzburg would make our life ‘hell’, but frankly our system is more press resistant than theirs is. As we have seen already this season, having Vincente Iborra and Dani Parejo as key elements of your press break is a bit of a cheat code. The five teams in La Liga with the most pressures in the attacking third are Eibar, Real Sociedad, Alaves, Real Valladolid, and Getafe. We’ve played all of them and have 13 out of 15 possible points and a +7 goal differential in those matches. Our problem is teams that sit deep. Clubs that want to come out and pressure us get burned.
While Salzburg is stronger than other teams we could have drawn, if we are reasonably healthy when that match happens I think we match up very well against them. I really like our chances to advance.
The first leg of Villarreal vs RB Salzburg will be on February 18th, 2021 in Austria.