FK Austria Wien have emerged from weeks of uncertainty to reclaim their position at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga on goal difference.
Relieved of the speculation surrounding their their future, they have won all three domestic matches since the departure of controversial owner Frank Stronach. A 2-0 win against SV Mattersburg saw them move level on points with SV Austria Salzburg following the latter's 2-1 defeat against SV Ried.
Behind the front two lie SK Rapid Wien and Ried, this season's surprise package and a serious contender after their victory against Salzburg left them just four points off the lead. Only one round of matches remains until the winter break, and as many as half a dozen teams could go into Christmas harbouring real championship ambitions, as just seven points separate the top six.
Despite a recent upturn in league form, Rapid will begin 2006 with a new coach, as Josef Hickersberger leaves to take charge of the Austrian national team and SV Pasching's Georg Zellhofer takes over. They will also have to absorb the impending departure of captain Steffen Hofmann, whose contract runs out in the summer. He has stated his intention to play in one of the continent's top leagues, with TSV 1860 München and CA Osasuna possible destinations.
Under their new coach Helmut Kraft, Pasching have stumbled, with two consecutive defeats seeing them fall to sixth place. Grazer AK are a place ahead after their surprising loss against VfB Admira Wacker Mödling, but they have a game in hand following a postponement.
Despite their victory against GAK, Admira remain in deep trouble at the foot of the table, ten points adrift of Mattersburg. Their recent upturn in form suggests a recovery might be possible if they make the most of their winter break and come back refreshed and organised.
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