Preview: Salzburg vs. Roma - prediction, team news, lineupsSports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Red Bull Salzburg and Roma, including predictions, team news and possible lineups. The Europa League knockout stages get underway on Thursday, when Red Bull Salzburg host Roma in the first leg of the teams' playoff round tie.
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Indeed, they have twice beaten Roma's city rivals Lazio on home soil in the past - in 2009 and 2018. If precedent is any guide, however, then surely Thursday's visitors have the edge ahead of kickoff, as Roma are undefeated in three previous competitive fixtures in Austria. As last year's inaugural Europa Conference League winners, Jose Mourinho's side also boast plenty of recent experience at the sharp end of continental competition, while Mourinho himself has lifted the Europa League trophy with both Porto (2003) and Manchester United (2017) during an illustrious coaching career. Before the winter break, Roma found Group C far from plain sailing, though, and they only progressed to the knockout phase by edging past Ludogorets to finish runners-up behind an unbeaten Real Betis. Up to third in Serie A thanks to four wins from six in 2023, the Giallorossi's most recent run-out saw them slip up in Lecce, when they returned from Saturday's trip to Stadio Via del Mare with just a point following a 1-1 draw.
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Red Bull Salzburg form (all competitions): Roma Europa League form: Roma form (all competitions): Team News Adhering to the club's recruitment policy, Matthias Jaissle's Salzburg squad for Thursday's clash is particularly youthful - they fielded the youngest starting XI on average in the Champions League group stage (just 22 years and 279 days). Aged 22, Noah Okafor is among the brightest of them all, and the Swiss striker could partner Junior Adamu up front at Red Bull Arena.
Alternatively, struggling striker Andrea Belotti - who is yet to net a single Serie A strike this season - may be offered an opportunity, with Solbakken, Benjamin Tahirovic and Cristian Volpato among fringe players hopeful of inclusion too. Red Bull Salzburg possible starting lineup:Kohn; Dedic, Pavlovic, Solet, Ulmer; Gourna-Douath; Seiwald, Sucic, Kjaergaard; Okafor, Adamu Roma possible starting lineup:Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Celik, Tahirovic, Cristante, Zalewski; Pellegrini, Dybala; Abraham We say: Red Bull Salzburg 1-1 Roma Both runners-up in the Europa League's predecessor - the UEFA Cup - during the 1990s, these clubs boast significant European pedigree and are seemingly well-matched. Yet, Roma's recent form has shown they can grind out results where in the past they would have folded, so the visitors can return to Italy on level terms ahead of the second leg. For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Compared to the Roma squad which unconvincingly squeezed through the group stage, Ola Solbakken has signed from Bodo/Glimt and Georginio Wijnaldum is back after recovering from a broken leg, but Leonardo Spinazzola is an absentee, as a recent thigh injury keeps the wing-back sidelined until next month. Therefore, Nicola Zalewski should be joined by either Zeki Celik or Stephan El Shaarawy on the visitors' flanks - Rick Karsdorp is set to be brought back in from the cold and is also a contender. Tammy Abraham, captain Lorenzo Pellegrini and leading scorer Paulo Dybala should join forces up front.
The pair are Salzburg's top scorers this season, though Brazilian forward Fernando and former Manchester United target Benjamin Sesko are in contention too, despite the latter's lack of form. Nicolas Capaldo was unavailable to Jaissle at the end of Die Roten Bullen's Champions League campaign, but may now feature in midfield, while Max Wober departed the club during the winter transfer window so either Bernardo or 37-year-old Andreas Ulmer will start at left-back. Wober moved to Leeds, where he could apparently have been joined by Nicolo Zaniolo, who instead made the switch from Rome to Istanbul after burning his bridges with Jose Mourinho.
As a result, Roma not only slipped to fourth but have also won only one of their last five away games - they have, however, scored in their last 12 matches on the road. Furthermore, the Eternal City side have found the net at least once in each of their last 33 European outings - the best such record since Paris Saint-Germain's run between September 2016 and August 2020 (34) - while progressing from eight of their last nine knockout ties. Finishing in Italy's top four come June will be Mourinho's primary aim for the rest of this season, but the wily tactician cannot resist the glint of silverware and will know that winning the Europa League would secure Champions League football in any case.
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Then, the draw will pit the winners together with eight seeded teams who have already qualified. As drop-outs from the latter competition, Salzburg may still feel a tinge of regret about their exit in November, when a last-day victory over Milan would have seen them progress in Europe's top tournament. Though Matthias Jaissle's side had held the Italian champions to a 1-1 home draw earlier in the campaign, they suffered a chastening 4-0 defeat at San Siro, leaving them to settle for third spot in Group E, only ahead of Dinamo Zagreb. Die Roten Bullen resumed competitive football at the start of February, following a long winter break, and even if they still top the Bundesliga standings by six points, recent results have not gone all their way.
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Eliminated from the Austrian Cup on penalties by closest league rivals Sturm Graz, they then lost their final warm-up friendly before returning to league action, but Fernando's brace helped earn a 4-0 win over Lustenau last weekend. So, while Salzburg have suffered just four losses all season, three have come in their last seven matches. This may be their first meeting with Roma, but the Giallorossi will be the eighth different Italian side that Austria's dominant force have faced in Europe to date.
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