The battle for second place in Group D of the Europa League is on come Thursday as Austria Vienna welcome AEK Athens to town knowing a win is a must to send them through.
Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna, Austria 07 Dec 2017 6:00 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: AEK Athens have drawn each of the last four games in the group.
Expert Verdict: Austria Vienna have endured wretched home form this season, so they will not come into this match as the favorite to progress from the group at all. On top of that, AEK Athens have done just enough each time out in the tournament and we suspect that they will muster just enough to send them through again.
Thorsten Fink has a lot of injuries as goalkeeper Robert Almer, center backs Ruan, Heiko Westermann, Alexandar Borkovic, right back Florian Klein, left back Christoph Martschinko, and center midfielders Alexander Grunwald and Vesel Demaku are all out.
For a short time, the side from Vienna led at Milan through striker Christoph Monschein's goal. The 25 year old Austrian had given them the lead, and though they were ultimately thumped in the end, it shows his eye for goal. He also scored a late equalizer at the weekend to help them get a point and that will bring him into this match with a lot of confidence.
Austria Vienna have a draw, three losses, and a win in their last five matches:
1-1 home draw vs Salzburg
1-0 loss at St. Polten
1-2 win at Wolfsberger
5-1 loss at AC Milan
2-3 home loss vs Admira
Defenders:de Paula, Mohammed, Borkovic, Salamon
Midfielders:Serbest, Holzhauser, Alhassan
Forwards:Prokop, Pires, Monschein
Manolo Jimenez will be missing center midfielders Jakob Johansson and Petros Mantalos due to injuries.
Croatian attacker Marko Livaja has been in very fine form for AEK Athens this season. He has four goals in the league, including a winning goal this weekend, and also has scored twice so far in the Europa League. Look for him to once again be a key player for them if they are to take this spot in the round of 16.
AEK have three wins and two draws in their last five matches:
0-2 win at Levadiakos
2-3 win at Kallithea (Cup)
3-0 home win vs Platanias
2-2 home draw vs Rijeka (UEL)
1-1 draw at Panathinaikos
Defenders:Galo, Vranjes, Chygrynskiy, Lopes
Midfielders:Simoes, Bakakis, Galanopoulos
Forwards:Christodoulpoulos, Bakasetas, Livaja
The first and only meeting between these teams ahead of this match came back in September as they played out a 2-2 draw in Athens. Marko Livaja scored goals on either side of Christoph Monschein and Ismael Tajouri, the second of which came in the 90th minute, to earn his team a point.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Austria Vienna are at 13/8 to win, a draw is at 9/4, and an AEK Athens win is at 13/8.
This match is basically what amounts to a playoff for the final slot out of the group. AEK Athens are in the driver's seats. They do not need to win away from home, rather they need just a draw in order to send them into the round of 16. Their hosts, however, will need to get a victory in this match. Nothing that Rijeka can do, despite their chance to go level on points, would be enough. So the hosts must win, while the visitors need just a draw.
Austria Vienna took a long journey to get to this group stage. They faced two rounds of qualification, and in those matches they got a draw and a loss but still progressed. In the group, they have two losses at home thus far. Overall, Austria Vienna have just three wins, three draws, and eight losses at home this season. AEK started out their European journey in the Champions League. They lost in their away match to send them here. They then won a playoff in which they got a draw in their away leg, before getting four points in this group away from home so far. Overall, they have an away record of six wins, five draws, and two losses.
It's been a busy period for both sides of late, so neither team will have an edge as far as fitness concerns go.
A no on both teams to score is set at 5/4 via Ladbrokes.
Given the way that AEK Athens have gone about their business of late drawing games, it's hard to predict against them here. They know they must not lose, and they can sit back and make sure that does not happen.