Breaking new ground in Austria and riding high in UEFA Europa League Group C, FC Salzburg will be brimming with confidence when they welcome R. Standard de Liège on matchday three.
If Salzburg's eye-catching 8-1 defeat of SC Wiener Neustadt on 29 September was not evidence enough of Salzburg's title credentials, they flexed their muscles again on Saturday by powering six unanswered goals past FC Wacker Innsbruck. In between times they had downed champions FK Austria Wien 2-1 in the capital.
Those results have taken Roger Schmidt's men eight points clear of SV Grödig and SV Ried at the Austrian Bundesliga summit – and extended their unbeaten sequence across two seasons to 31 matches, a new Austrian record.
"My team never stop harrying the opposition. They are clearly enjoying their football at the moment," said the 46-year-old Schmidt. "The record is a huge achievement because we have had some tough games along the way. Going 31 matches without losing is outstanding – it's not a title but I'm extremely proud."
An SK Rapid Wien side coached by Otto Barić and containing household names such as Michael Konsel, Zlatko Kranjčar and Andreas Herzog held the previous record before succumbing 2-1 to Austria Wien on 28 November 1987. "When a record remains unbroken for that amount of time, it needs something special to beat it," enthused Schmidt.
The seven-time Austrian champions have also been turning heads in Europe, dismantling Swedish visitors IF Elfsborg 4-0 on matchday one before edging Esbjerg fB 2-1 in Denmark a fortnight later. The Group C pacesetters have no intention of letting up, according to midfield schemer Kevin Kampl. "We want to continue in the same vein, word hard and reap the rewards. None of us are completely satisfied with what we have achieved so far. Ideally we want to keep this run going until the end of the season," he said.
Indeed, Kampl's hunger for success permeates the Salzburg squad and is shared by Schmidt – who is staying grounded nonetheless: "We have got through a third of the season. We are in a good position but there's a long way to go and it's too early to write anyone off in Austria."
Standard coach Guy Luzon, meanwhile, knows Thursday's game could be boom or bust for the Belgian First League leaders. "We need to get three points," said Luzon, with his team bottom of the section. "We only have one point and Salzburg have six, so this fixture has great importance for us. We are playing one of the most attacking teams in Europe, especially Alan and Jonatan Soriano. However, we won't change our system to be more defensive."
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