Analysing RB Salzburg's impressive season
There have certainly been surprises in European competition this season, with RB Salzburg's impressive UEFA Europa League run being amongst them.
The reigning Austrian Bundesliga champions have found their feet in continental context throughout 2017/18, having turned heads with their play in a major tournament. They couldn't reach the UEFA Champions League group stages, but that didn't stop Salzburg. They've thrived in the Europa League, to the point that they have reached the semi-finals, being just two games away from reaching the final. That's only a scenario that most supporters would have only dreamed about.
But how did Salzburg get to this point? Let's take a look at what they have done during their mightily impressive Europa League campaign.
Salzburg's European overlook
After getting eliminated from the UEFA Champions League in the third qualifying round - where they lost on away goals against Rijeka - they fell into the Europa League qualifying stages where they defeated Viitorul Constanta (7-1 on aggregate) to reach the group phase.
Salzburg fell in Group I against Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal), Olympique Marseille (France) and Konyaspor (Turkey). The initial expectation was that they would fight for second place with Vitoria and Konyaspor, but they performed better than expected and topped their group with 12 points after securing three wins and three draws.
Nobody could judge how they'd perform heading into the knockout stages, but once again they have managed to play at a supremely high level, consistently too... After taking down Real Sociedad and Borussia Dortmund, they had to take on a Lazio side that emerged amongst the Serie A front-runners.
82% pass accuracy
1 key pass
2 dribbles won
1 tackle won
2 aerials won
Last season - star of Salzburg U19 team, this season - star of Salzburg first team. Brilliant switch from youth to senior football. https://t.co/cG2Ns6LJlp
Lazio won the first leg 4-2, but Salzburg shocked the world when they flipped the script in the second leg. A 4-1 win at home - thanks to goals from Munas Dabour, Amadou Haidara, Hwang Hee-Chan and Stefan Lainer - gave them the tickets to play against Marseille for a berth in the final. The pair met during the group stages, with the Austrian side winning 1-0 at home and drawing 0-0 away.
The draw has certainly been favourable for the Austrians, avoiding both Atletico Madrid and Arsenal, who'll face-off in the other semi-final.
A quick look at Salzburg's numbers this season
The facts and figures simply do not lie, and Salzburg has been immensely impressive on both the domestic and the European stage. They have scored 19 goals in 12 Europa League matches (1.52 per game), registering six wins, five draws and suffering just one defeat. Salzburg has proven they can go toe-to-toe with almost any team they've come up against.
Their T'Mobile Bundesliga campaign has been excellent once again. Salzburg defeated Admira Moedling (6-2) the last time out, and currently, they're sitting pretty at the summit, securing 68 points after 30 matches played. They hold an eight-point lead over second-placed Sturm Graz with six games left in the schedule. Everything indicates they will win their fifth straight league title. A mightily impressive run.
But now the season is entering its crucial period, leaving Salzburg with a point to prove. But if the rest of the season has been anything to go by, they have an excellent chance at making a European final.