It’s undeniable that Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg was the hottest team of the UEFA Europa League group stage.
Salzburg ended their first stage of the tournament with a perfect performance, winning their six contests and outscoring their rivals by a wide margin. But now that they entered the knockout round, things will get tougher for them.
After the draw they had the tough luck to be destined to face Ajax, one of the teams that got eliminated from the UEFA Champions League and also one of the most historic sides in all Europe.
The Dutch team is led by manager Frank De Boer – who’s being targeted by Italian side Inter Milan – and even though they lost Christian Eriksen this summer, they still have some quality players like Siem de Jong, Kenneth Vermeer and Daley Blind, all of whom play for the Netherlands National Team. Ajax are heavy favorites to advance to the next round based on their pedigree and recent performances – they even defeated Barcelona a few weeks ago – but Salzburg has its own weapons to create some damage against the current Eredivisie champions.
Striker Jonathan Soriano and Brazilian forward Alan have been their most distinguished offensive players at the European stage so far, scoring four goals each in the Europa League group stage. The team works like a clock on both sides of the ball, and Ajax will clearly have a tough time defeating the Austrian outfit.
It remains to be seen whether Ajax will be able to come through, but this will also be a test for Red Bull Salzburg. After their spectacular group stage it will be interesting to see how they match up against tougher opposition.