Austria will be aiming to make a perfect start to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign by beating Estonia on Monday.
Ralf Rangnick’s side ran out comfortable 4-1 winners against Azerbaijan on Friday, while Estonia did not play a competitive match.
Indeed, the fixture list has been rather kind to Rangnick and Austria, with Das Team starting with two home matches against the weakest two nations in Group F.
Forwards Michael Gregoritsch and Christoph Baumgartner both got themselves on the scoresheet at Raiffeisen Arena against Azerbaijan, with Marcel Sabitzer’s brace ensuring that Emin Mahmudov’s strike for the visitors was little more than a consolation one.
Having lost five of six matches to succumb to relegation from League A of the Nations League last year, Rangnick will be feeling much more positive about Austria’s future having put together three successive victories in more recent times.
With Sweden losing to Belgium on Friday, his side have an excellent opportunity to ensure that they retain at least a three-point lead over arguably their greatest rivals for the second automatic qualification spot in the group by winning against Estonia as expected.
Estonia, on the other hand, did not have a scheduled competitive match during the week, with Thomas Haberli’s side losing 1-0 to Hungary in a friendly on Thursday.
The hosts dominated the encounter at Puskas Arena Park, although Estonia certainly had moments themselves, generating 11 shots – three of which were on target – across the course of the 90 minutes. Martin Adam’s goal four minutes before half time ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Having collected only one point from eight matches in their attempts to qualify for Euro 2020, Haberli will be expecting to perform much better than his predecessor, even if they have been handed an extremely tough task to avoid finishing bottom having been drawn alongside Belgium, Sweden, Austria and Azerbaijan in Group F.
However, Sinisargid have punched above their weight before, most notably when winning five matches during qualifying for both World Cup 2006 and Euro 2012, the latter of which they only missed out on reaching due to losing a playoff tie to Republic of Ireland.
Whether they currently have the ability at their disposal to pull off a similar achievement is a different matter, with them surely requiring a positive start in Linz on Monday if they are to have any chance of doing so.
Marko Arnautovic has withdrawn from Austria’s squad after declaring an injury prior to their victory over Azerbaijan, meaning Baumgartner and Gregoritsch are set to lead the line once more having both bagged during the 4-1 win.
Rangnick may bring Stefan Posch into his backline at the expense of Gernot Trauner, but otherwise the former Manchester United boss is unlikely to want to tinker too much with a winning formula.
Estonia, meanwhile, may go with the same team which competed to a decent level against Hungary in their recent friendly defeat, with Haberli likely to be hopeful that an extra day’s rest could provide his team with a much needed advantage.
Captain Konstantin Vassiljev, who will turn 39-years-old in August, will be hoping to earn his 150th cap from the start.
Austria possible starting lineup:
Lindner; Mwene, Posch, Danso, Wober; Laimer, Seiwald, Sabitzer, Wimmer; Baumgartner, Gregoritsch
Estonia possible starting lineup:
Hein; Baranov, Paskotsi, Kussk; Sinyavskiy, Vassiljev, Kait, Shein, Pikk; Ojamaa, Sappinen