With a natural goalscorer in Jonatan Soriano on their books, FC Salzburg have every chance of making the group stage, says UEFA.com's Jürgen Baumgartner.
FC Salzburg have every chance of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage with potent striker Jonatan Soriano leading the line.
The Austrian title holders must first negotiate a third qualifying round tie against Qarabag FK and the play-offs before entering the group stage for the first time since 1994/95. However, there is reason to dream in Salzburg – as long as Soriano replicates the form that made him both the UEFA Europa League (8) and Austrian Bundesliga (31) top scorer last term.
As well as exhibiting predatory instincts, the Salzburg captain showed a penchant for the spectacular in the UEFA Europa League, leaving AFC Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen stranded with a spectacular lob from the halfway line in their round of 16 tie. Even more ominous for Europe's defenders is the fact that Soriano's form shows no sign of abating, the 28-year-old having found the net four times in Salzburg's opening two league fixtures of the new campaign.
Date of birth: 24/09/1985
Clubs: RCD Espanyol B, RCD Espanyol, UD Almería (loan), Poli Ejido (loan), Albacete Balompié (loan), FC Barcelona B, FC Salzburg
The Spaniard was very much unproven when he arrived from Barcelona's second team in January 2012. After initially struggling to find his feet, Soriano excelled under new boss Roger Schmidt, finishing the 2012/13 season with 26 goals in 33 Bundesliga outings. It was last year when Soriano really came of age, though, as he fired Salzburg to a league and cup double, registering 48 times in 43 competitive matches.
The Amsterdam ArenA will always be a special place for Soriano after he executed an outstanding 50-metre lob in Salzburg's 3-0 round of 16 first-leg win against Ajax in February. "I never thought the ball would go in, but I got lucky," he reflected modestly after the game. "I hit it well and it flew in. It's the most beautiful goal I've ever scored."
Aside from hitting 48 goals in 2013/14, Soriano created a further 23 for his team-mates in all competitions.
What he says
"Of course, we want to reach the Champions League, like everyone in Salzburg. Last season we won the domestic double and this time round we're aiming high again. I feel a positive pressure."
What they say
He was always a great footballer with an ability to score goals and play in a passing team. He has also become a key defensive player in our system because our style only works when everyone gives their all. That's why he's exactly the right player to lead this team."
Salzburg coach Schmidt in March 2014.
Lethal in the opposition's box, Soriano seldom lets an opportunity pass. He also possesses fantastic technique, can score from anywhere and creates goals for others.