Trapattoni takes blame for AEK defeat

A 3-0 UEFA Cup defeat at AEK Athens FC last night has further raised the pressure on the coach of Austrian champions FC Salzburg, Giovanni Trapattoni.

A 3-0 UEFA Cup defeat at AEK Athens FC last night has further raised the pressure on the coach of Austrian champions FC Salzburg, Giovanni Trapattoni.

Dangerous position
Having run away with the Austrian title last season, Salzburg were eager to make significant progress in Europe, but after missing out on a UEFA Champions League group stage place with a 3-2 aggregate defeat against FC Shakhtar Donetsk, a heavy defeat in Athens has raised the prospect of a premature exit from Europe - a major disappointment considering the club's investment in recent seasons.

'Wrong tactics'
The 68-year-old Trapattoni has been coming under pressure after an underwhelming start to the domestic season, with Salzburg second in the table, and the Athens result will not have helped his cause. "It's possible we went into the game with the wrong tactics," he said. "I accept full responsibility for that. We will do all we can in the return leg to achieve the goals we set ourselves."

Heads roll
A total of 18 points from their first ten league games is regarded as a poor return for Salzburg. Sporting director Oliver Kreuzer has already paid the price for that, being dismissed and replaced by highly-regarded youth coordinator Heinz Hochhauser and Thomas Linke. With summer signings Christoph Leitgeb and Saša Ilić still underperforming, further personnel changes may follow.

Away form
Crucial to the club's current woes has been their performances away from home. Yet to drop a point on the artificial turf at Stadium Salzburg Wals-Siezenheim, they have seemingly struggled to make the switch to real grass. They have taken just three points from five away games in the league while, as the AEK result proves, things have been little better on their European travels.

Cutting edge
Supporters are also starting to tire of Trapattoni's tactics. With former FC Bayern München star Alexander Zickler often deployed as a lone striker, the Italian coach is still focused largely on not conceding, often fielding Niko Kovač, Ezequiel Carboni and René Aufhauser as a defensive trio in midfield. With many opposition sides now deploying two men to mark the 33-year-old Zickler, Salzburg fans can feel that they lack a cutting edge.

Rakić hope
There is some new hope though. Last week's 2-1 home win against SV Mattersburg marked the debut of new Serbian Under-21 international striker Djordje Rakić alongside Zickler. "Rakić is an exceptional striker," said Trapattoni. "He will continue to develop with us and add an extra dimension to our offensive play." He may have to develop very quickly indeed if he is to ease the pressure on his coach.

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