SKN St Pölten were considered rank outsiders when they drew PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round. However, the Austrian second-tier club – domestic cup runners-up last term – limited their Eredivisie opponents to a 1-0 victory in the Netherlands and will be full of hope going into Thursday's second leg.
"Austria's David frustrates the Goliath of Eindhoven," said Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung after last week's opening instalment. "The budget of the club from Lower Austria is €4m, PSV's is €65m. But that difference was not visible on the pitch." With their recent success in mind, UEFA.com asks: who are St Pölten and where have they come from?
St Pölten were founded in their current form in 2000 following the demise of FCN St Pölten. They rose from the fifth to the second division by 2008 and have been there ever since. Nicknamed the Wolves because of their crest (the city – population 52,000 – also bears a wolf on its crest), St Pölten have enjoyed their biggest moments in the Austrian Cup. Having reached the last four in 2008, they went one better last season only to lose 4-2 to double winners FC Salzburg in the final. Bulgaria's PFC Botev Plovdiv were their victims, 3-2 on aggregate, in the second qualifying round.
Herbert Gager, 44, took over at the start of this campaign following the end of his contract with Austrian Bundesliga outfit FK Austria Wien. Curiously, the man who succeeded him in Vienna was Gerald Baumgartner, himself in charge at St Pölten last term. "I am really proud of my team,” said Gager after last Thursday's trip to the Netherlands. "I did not think it was possible for SKN St Pölten to keep up with Eindhoven. The PSV players had no idea how to outmanoeuvre us. If the stadium is not sold out for the return leg, I don't know what to say!"
Spaniard Daniel Segovia is the outstanding player of the side. After struggling to make an impression during spells with FC Admira Wacker Mödling and Wolfsberger AC, he returned to "his" SKN this summer. The striker – particularly dangerous in the air – has scored five in his first five games, including three in Europe. Elsewhere, the experience and poise of Tomasz Wisio is key in defence while Dominik Hofbauer and Konstantin Kerschbaumer make things tick from midfield.
SKN are catching the eye with their offensive pressing, which requires a great deal of energy from the players. Gager usually deploys a 3-5-2 formation which easily morphs into a 5-3-2 when required. Segovia has a central role in attack yet Gary Noel is an alternative target man to be called upon if needed.
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