So far this season, Austrian clubs have played a record 42 games in European competition, with FC Salzburg still going strong in the UEFA Europa League, and that growing strength is echoed in the Bundesliga.
In the past, playing in Europe has been an excuse for top teams letting their domestic form slip, but they cannot reply on that this year as SK Rapid Wien, FK Austria Wien, SK Sturm Graz and Salzburg have all been involved in the UEFA Europa League group stage. And while it looks like leaders Rapid and reigning champions Salzburg, split by two points, are the favourites going into the winter break, it wood be foolhardy to write off Austria and Sturm ahead of the resumption on 13 February.
The players will be grateful for a break, as European commitment have meant young internationals like Daniel Beichler and Yasin Pehlivan playing 40 competitive games already in 2009/10. It will not get easier for Salzburg's Somen Tchoyi, however, as he will represent Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations before returning to his club for UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie with R. Standard de Liège, Bundesliga and Austrian Cup games. Then he flied out to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup.
At the other end of the scale it seems SK Austria Kärnten have it all to do. Eleven points deficit of LASK Linz and SV Kapfenberg at the bottom, coach Jože Prelogar is unlikely to have much to spend so will rely on raw talent like 19-year-old midfielder Michael Sollbauer. Many pundits had tipped SV Mattersburg to be in Kärnten's position right now, but the Burgenland outfit have showed spirit and will, and established themselves in the mid-table.
Five points and a place below Mattersburg, it has not been dull at LASK this season. Thanks to Thomas Prager and Roman Wallner up front, their goal tally of 40 is bettered only by Rapid, but at the other end a league high 52 have been conceded. In all, their 19 matches have produced an average of 4.84 goals, a trend set in their opening two games when they beat Mattersburg 4-0 then lost 5-4 to Austria Wien. Four days after a rare 0-0 draw with Salzburg they were beaten 7-2 at Kapfenberg.
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