Rapid Wien to edge open central European clash
Tuesday evening will see former European titans of an earlier age go head to head in the first leg of the second qualifying round of this season's nascent Champions League. Distant Austrian Bundesliga runners-up Rapid Wien will be backed by a sizeable, partisan crowd in the Allianz Stadion, and will play hosts to Sparta Prague, who also came second in their top tier (behind city rivals Slavia). Read our preview here:
Taxi for Fountas
The highest profile summer move in the transfer market thus far for Die Grün-Weißen was the loan (and eventual sale) of exciting forward Yusuf Demir, who, having just turned 18 and already capped at senior level for his country, will spend the campaign with debt-stricken Barcelona's 'B' with a view to a low eight-figure permanent deal at some point in the future, assuming they can find a way to satisfy La Liga's board in terms of their financial outlook by then. In his wake, he leaves Ercan Kara partnering prolific Greek striker Taxiarchis Fountas. Head coach Dietmar Kühbauer will utilise them both in a fluid 4-4-2, emphasising wing-play and cutting inside from the flanks to break forward at speed.
Casper the friendly
It's been a very busy transfer window for manager Pavel Vrba to date. Having been appointed only in February, the 57 year old veteran rallied his new side to finish in second spot, and with it, the opportunity to be at the top table of European football once more. The capture of Fiorentina stopper Dávid Hancko on a permanent basis after a two-year loan was a significant outlay, but also a sign of the ambition of Železná Sparta under his watch. Equally, the acquisition of Casper Højer Nielsen significantly boosts their strength down the left wide spaces.
The away goals rule in UEFA's competitions has been banished to the history books, but even without it, fans who are able to attend tomorrow's encounter can expect to see an open, keenly contested affair. Having a single competitive match under their collective belts could give Rapid the edge in the first leg, and betway have odds of 2.37 for a home win.