Lesser-fancied European Teams to watch this season #9 - LASK
As the European season is getting underway, here is another team you may want to keep an eye on and follow their progress throughout the season, and that is Austrian side LASK.
Die Schwarz-Weißen are the oldest club in the Austrian state capital Linz and have won the Austrian first division on one occasion in 1965, simultaneously becoming the first football team outside of the capital Vienna to have won the title. The recent history of the club has not been too great. They have floated between the second and first division of the Austrian league system, even dropping as low as the third tier in 2012.
However, under their previous manager Oliver Glasner, they have had a change of fortunes. Glasner narrowly missed out on promotion to the first division in his first season in 2014, but then achieved the same in the following season.
In his two subsequent seasons in the top division, he achieved a fourth-place finish and then last season a second-place finish to bring Champions League football to Linz. Sadly for LASK, Glasner was quickly snapped up at the end of last season by German team VFL Wolfsburg and LASK replaced him with a former manager of the Wolves in Valérien Ismaël.
Ismaël, who formerly used to play for the likes of Strasbourg, Werder Bremen, and Bayern Munich, has only managed three teams - two in Germany in 1.FC Nürnberg and VFL Wolfsburg and one in Greece in Apollon Smyrni F.C.
Last season under Glasner, LASK played a 3-4-3 formation where their wingers were prolific and contributed to a 12 game unbeaten streak during the season. Left-winger Joao Victor scored 20 goals and on the right, Thomas Goiginger scored 14. However, it was their defence where their strength showed. Except for the champions Red Bull Salzburg, LASK had the best defence in both the regular season and in the play-off rounds.
In terms of transfers, Victor has followed Glasner to Wolfsburg and they have strengthened mainly in the defensive midfield department. The departure of Victor may on paper seen to be a big blow, however, they have been using this season striker Samuel Tetteh on the left, with Klauss in the middle.
This adapted 3-4-3 formation has worked so far for the new manager Ismaël as they have played three matches, two in the league and a cup match, and won them all. A 6-2 victory in the cup and then it has been followed up with two clean sheets in a 2-0 and 3-0 victory respectively.
LASK, if they continue their form so far, could maybe dream of Champions League qualification again, and they still have the qualifying round for this year's competition against FC Basel.
So it is possible they could be in the Champions League group stages this year. The other Austrian teams, especially the two Vienna sides of Austria Wien and Rapid Wien would want to fight back after a poor season last time out. As for the new manager in his previous three first-team jobs, he has not lasted more than a year. Let's hope he continues the start they have had so far.