The faces may have changed but the mission remains the same for FC Salzburg as they prepare to begin their quest for a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage after a spate of near misses.
Salzburg lost to Maccabi Haifa FC in the play-offs last season and to Valencia CF and FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the third qualifying round in 2006/07 and 2007/08 respectively. As they bid to reach the group stage for the first time the task ahead of coach Huub Stevens has been complicated by the decision of free-scoring forward Marc Janko to join FC Twente for a reported €7m, a record for an Austrian player.
It leaves Salzburg, Austrian champions in three of the past four seasons, with plenty to do off the pitch before the first leg of their second qualifying round tie at home to HB Tórshavn on 13 July. "Our plans have not been completed yet," sporting director Dietmar Beiersdorfer said. "We still have our eyes on a few players."
One overhaul has already been carried out by the club with young Austrian players such as the Alexander Aschauer and Marco Meilinger, both 18, heading into first-team contention at the expense of veterans Alexander Zickler, Barry Opdam and Karel Piták who have all been released, leaving the squad with only three players over 30.
The club have also responded to the long-term injury to captain and goalkeeper Edward Gustafsson, who is out until 2011 after breaking his tibia and fibula, by signing Gerhard Tremmel and Alexander Walke. "We're aiming high," added Beiersdorfer. "That's why we need two very competitive goalkeepers. Tremmel and Walke have a wealth of experience and both were available on free transfers."
Integrating the newcomers into the squad before meeting HB is Salzburg's first challenge. Should they progress, the Austrian champions will then target the group-stage place that has eluded them at the final hurdle in three of the last four seasons. "We respect every opponent," said Stevens, looking no further than their opponents from the Faroe Islands. "But we have to get through to the next round."
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