Red Star Belgrade vs Salzburg – Tuesday, August 21, 20:00 BST/21:00 CEST – Stadion Rajko Mitić, Belgrade, Serbia
One of two teams will finally make the decisive step to compete in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade, of course, competed in the 1991/92 edition, which included a group stage after two elimination rounds.
It was, however, not until the following year that the European Cup was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League. At that point, Yugoslavia was engulfed in a Civil War and when the dust settled was a member of a newly independent country that was first known as Yugoslavia, then Serbia and Montenegro and finally just Serbia.
Throughout those years Red Star Belgrade took part in the qualification stage of the UEFA Champions League seven times but never got past the playoffs. The lack of Champions League group stage football, in fact, had a significant impact on Red Star, or Crvena Zvezda in Serbian.
UEFA’s cash cow is very much the foundation of what is now the elite clubs of European football. Even slightly below that elite, the top clubs from medium size countries have benefitted. Without the top Serbian clubs as regular participants, the Serbian SuperLiga has been more and more delegated as an elite academy for youth prospects that will make their name elsewhere in Europe.
This year is no different with scouts closely watching this Champions League playoff matchup. Clubs in Germany, France and Spain are still allowed to sign players until the end of August, as are many of the smaller European leagues that are above Serbia in the pecking order. Hence, should Red Star fail to make the group stage some of the best talents may end up leaving at the end of August.
It is of little condolence for Crvena Zvezda that the team they are facing is very much in the same boat. FC Salzburg, or Red Bull Salzburg as they are known for domestic game, have some of the hottest prospects in Europe at their disposal at the moment.
Coached by the immensely talented Marco Rose Salzburg were just minutes away from reaching the Europa League final last season. Part of the Red Bull setup that also includes teams in New York, Ghana, Brazil and Leipzig, there is a distinct attacking, Gegenpressing, type of football that RB franchises play.
Love them, or hate them, but Red Bull teams play some of the best football in Europe. As a result, they also produce some of the best talents. Marco Rose has a few to his disposal at the moment, and failure to qualify for the Champions League could see clubs moving in to sign the likes of Amadou Haidara, Diadie Samassékou, Xaver Schlager, Munas Dabbur and Hee-chan Hwang.
Hence, Salzburg share the danger of the best players leaving until the end of August. But they also share Champions League playoff failure. Since the rebrand from Austria Salzburg to Red Bull Salzburg Salzburg have failed to reach the group stage of the Champions League.
The last time a Salzburg based club made the group stage of the Champions League was in 1994/95 when Austria “Casino” Salzburg finished third in a group that included AEK Athens, Milan and Ajax. This time around Salzburg are hopeful that operations Champions League will be a success, and given the club’s experience in the Europa League last season the Austrians will be favourites to advance.
Red Star Belgrade vs Salzburg – Players to look out for:
Nemanja Radonjić #49 – Red Star Belgrade
The vultures are swarming in to see whether Red Star Belgrade can qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. Should the club fail at this hurdle expect last-minute bids for winger Nemanja Radonjić, who has been linked with a move to VfB Stuttgart and Olympique Marseille. The 22-year-old is officially on loan from Roma at the moment. But his contract stipulates that he will join Red Star Belgrade on a free transfer at the end of the season. Hence, a club that would want him now could arrange a deal with both Roma and Belgrade that would satisfy all parties involved. The best case, however, for Red Star would be for Radonjić to continue his development in Serbia.
Amadou Haidara #4 – FC Salzburg
Like it is the case with Radonjić the scouts are closely following Salzburg’s progress, in general, and Amadou Haidara, in particular. The midfielder has been previously linked with a move to Salzburg’s sister club RB Leipzig – but while the interest was hot earlier in the summer officials now believe that it would be best for Haidara to remain in Salzburg to play Champions League football. That plan, however, could change should Leipzig fail to sign Sebastian Rudy from Bayern and Salzburg miss out on Champions League football.
Red Star Belgrade vs Salzburg – Match Stats
- Serbian champions hosting Austrian counterparts
- Sides met in 1976/77 UEFA Cup second round
- ‘Red Star’ beat Salzburg on away goals
- Winners will head to UEFA Champions League group stage draw on 30 August
- Losers bound for UEFA Europa League group stage draw the following day
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Red Star Belgrade vs Salzburg – 0-2
Red Star Belgrade vs Salzburg – Lineups
Red Star Belgrade:
Borjan – Rodić, Degenek, Savić, Stojković – Jovančić, Krstičić – Radonjić, Simić, El Fardou Ben – Stojiliković
Stanković – Ulmer, Ramalho, Pongračić, Lainer – Schlager, Samassékou, Haidara – Junuzović – Dabbur, Yabo
Head Coach: Marco Rose
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.