Marc Janko scored 39 goals to help FC Salzburg secure the Austrian title last season and the striker is determined that this is the year when they finally realise their UEFA Champions League ambitions.
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Having been beaten to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League by Valencia CF and FC Shakhtar Donetsk in recent years, Austrian titleholders FC Salzburg are determined not to miss out this time.
Salzburg regained the Bundesliga crown from SK Rapid in May, and begin their bid to reach the UEFA Champions League proper with a second qualifying round tie against Irish challengers Bohemian FC over the next two Wednesdays. And the man carrying the home fans' hopes in the first leg will be striker Marc Janko, the scorer of 39 in 34 league matches last season.
"There can be no doubt, we want to reach the group stage of the Champions League," Janko told uefa.com. "But it is never easy today, even if it might look so on paper. There are no easy opponents anymore and you have to be on top of your game no matter who you are playing. Bohemians, our first opponents, are one of the strongest ones available in this round, so we have to be on our guard right away."
But the Austrian international is certainly looking at winning the three ties Salzburg will need to negotiate if they are to realise their dreams of featuring in the last 32 for the first time. "We want to reach the group stage with a vengeance," Janko said. "That's our main focus. We have great depth in our squad, so we can cope with the start of the league as well. There can be no excuses. There is so much quality in our team, so success in the league is a must as well."
Janko has nine new colleagues in the squad this season as new Salzburg coach Huub Stevens looks to improve their European showing. "There were some good signings, who can all be played in different positions," continued the No21. "This makes it harder for opponents to work out our tactics. There is more than one system we can play now; we are more flexible. We still have to work on the fine-tuning, but things are looking good."
Stevens, best known for successful spells at FC Schalke 04 and Hamburger SV, arrived in the summer to replace fellow Dutchman Co Adriaanse. Janko is already noticing the difference. "It is a definite change for me compared to Adriaanse," the 26-year old said. "I have to work more in defence now and work more for the team. It's a different task compared to last year. I try to do all this while still scoring goals as often as possible, but the team's success is more important than my goals anyway. If we have success and reach our goals, it doesn't matter if I score a couple of goals fewer than last year."