ÖFB Cup Final 2020
Red Bull Salzburg vs Austria Lustenau
Second division side Lustenau have a massive task ahead of them in the cup final, but here are some reasons to be hopeful!
Last year's cup final saw the Wörthersee Stadion full of fans for a clash of two of the country's biggest clubs. This year it's different on many levels.
Tonight's cup final is the very first Austrian football game since the Coronavirus lockdown, and it's quite a way to restart.
Red bull Salzburg are in their seventh straight cup final, having lost in only one of those six games, tasting defeat after extra time by Sturm Graz in 2018. Naturally, they're the overwhelming favourites for tonight, but Austria Lustenau have some reasons for hope...
31-year-old Brazilian striker Ronivaldo is this season's top scorer in the cup, with a mighty 7 goals. He netted all 5 in a round one thrashing of Stadl Paura, but also showed a cool head with an extra time winner in round two, and a solitary semi-final strike from the penalty spot to seal a place in this showpiece game as well.
Salzburg's top scorer in the cup is Erling Haaland, who's of course now at Dortmund in the "other other" Bundesliga.
Whilst Ronivaldo is the obvious one to watch for Lustenau after his 16 goals and 5 assists in 19 league games this season, winger Thomas Mayer has scored 6 and assisted 9 goals in this league campaign, and midfielder Alex Ranacher has chipped in another 3 of each, so it's not just a one man band.
Lustenau boss Roman Mählich only took over the Vorarlberg side in September 2019, but he's no stranger to a big occasion. He won the cup 3 times himself as a player with SK Sturm Graz, and represented Austria at the 1998 World Cup, so he's not likely to be overawed.
Whilst Lustenau have faced Bundesliga opposition only once in this campaign (in a Q-F win vs WSG Tirol) Salzburg narrowly overcame both of their nearest Bundesliga challengers (LASK and Rapid Vienna) to reach this final, so it's been a tough run to Carinthia. This fixture comes off the back of a long break though, and Salzburg restarted after the lengthy winterpause with a distinctly underwhelming display against Amstetten in the cup quarter-final.
If Salzburg don't find their feet for this one, it could leave Lustenau with a better chance, yet there's something of a double-edged sword here, as second division side Amstetten were still swept aside 3-0 despite putting in a good showing against a sluggish Salzburg.
Jesse Marsch is gunning for his first title as Red Bull Salzburg boss, after a season of highs and lows both domestically and in Europe, so the pressure is certainly higher on his side. Before the lockdown, Salzburg had a number of defensive problems too, and with injuries adding up at the back, could Lustenau take advantage of a patched up Salzburg rearguard?
Whichever way you paint it, winning the cup would be a massive upset if Austria Lustenau could pull it off. They can take some inspiration from the fact that several lower league sides have done well in the Austrian cup before. In fact you only have to go back to 2013 to find a winner from as low as the 3rd tier (FC Pasching).
Lustenau themselves became the first side from Vorarlberg to reach the final back in 2011, so it's not exactly uncharted territory for them, but if they can give it a good go and run the game close, it might make it a bit easier for everyone to sit back and be thankful that Austrian football is back!
(Tonight's game will be televised in 40 countries worldwide! beIn Sports are responsible for that coverage in the US and several other key markets. In Austria, the game will be shown at 20:45 on state broadcaster ORF.)