Salzburg vs Roma: Europa League Preview, Lineups & Prediction

Serie A top-four hopefuls Roma head to the Red Bull Arena to take on perennial Austrian champions RB Salzburg in an exciting Europa League knockout playoffs clash on Thursday. Avoiding defeat in Austria would see the Giallorossi make a giant step toward reaching the competition’s round of 16 for the third time in four years. 

A lack of competitive form in 2023 could be an issue for Salzburg. While many of Europe’s top-flight divisions returned to action immediately after the World Cup in Qatar, Austrian football resumed in early February. On top of that, Matthias Jaissle’s men experienced a false start to the new calendar year.

Despite fighting back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to hold Sturm Graz to a 1-1 draw in the Austrian Cup quarter-finals, Salzburg eventually fell short on penalties a fortnight ago. But they reacted well to that heartbreak, putting four unanswered second-half goals past Austria Lustenau in last weekend’s overwhelming 4-0 home league victory. 

While they seem to be on the verge of waltzing away with a tenth consecutive Austrian Bundesliga title, going the distance in European competitions has often been elusive for Salzburg. Visiting Roma will be banking on their hosts’ proneness to faltering on the continental stage as they aim to build on last season’s historic Europa Conference League triumph.

Though they won only 50% of their Europa League group matches this term (W3, D1, L2), Roma claimed a runner-up finish in Group C behind Real Betis. Jose Mourinho’s team pulled off a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets on the final group matchday to secure a last-gasp progression. But while they blew hot and cold in autumn European fixtures, they can be proud of their domestic form. 



After suffering defeat in their last two Champions League group outings, including a 4-0 demolition at Roma’s fellow Serie A rivals Milan in the ultimate round, Salzburg had to settle for a third-place finish in Group E. That result dropped Die Roten Bullen into the Europa League knockouts for the ninth time, with only record-holders Ajax (10) boasting more appearances at this stage of the tournament. 

Worryingly for Jaissle, Salzburg’s last four Europa League games have provided no joy (D1, L3), accounting for their longest winless streak in Europe’s second-tier competition since October 2016. Roma’s visit to the Red Bull Arena is unlikely to boost their hopes of snapping that run, considering they’ve lost 11 of their 20 all-time European clashes against Italian opposition (W5, D4).

Player to Watch: Noah Okafor

Sought-after youngster Noah Okafor has soaked up the limelight as Salzburg’s headline performer in Europe this season, clocking up three goals in the Champions League group stages. He also broke the deadlock in a 1-1 home draw against Milan. 


Paulo Dybala scored from the spot to give Roma a hard-earned 1-1 away league draw against Lecce last weekend, helping the Giallorossi cling to a coveted fourth place in the Serie A standings. Unbeaten in back-to-back domestic fixtures in the lead-up to their first-ever trip to Salzburg (W1, D1), the Italians will relish their chances of settling this tie in the first leg.

Indeed, Roma have never lost a match against Austrian opposition in major European competitions (W3, D3). Furthermore, Mourinho is no stranger to conquering the Europa League, having led Premier League powerhouse Manchester United to the title back in 2016/17. And if that’s not enough to inspire confidence among traveling fans, Roma have netted in each of their last 33 UEFA-sanctioned games. 

Player to Watch: Paulo Dybala

A series of injury problems hindered Dybala’s impact in the Europa League group stages. But the Argentine is back and firing. He has had seven goal contributions across his last five Serie A appearances, scoring three times and delivering four assists.

Team News

Bryan Okoh and Samson Tijani are not in contention for the matchday squad due to injury, with Salzburg still sweating over Dijon Kameri and Daouda Guindo. 

As for Roma, Leonardo Spinazzola is the only high-profile absentee after Georginio Wijnaldum rejoined the fold following a long-term knee problem. 

Salzburg vs Roma Potential Lineups

Salzburg (4-3-1-2): Philipp Kohn; Amar Dedic, Strahinja Pavlovic, Oumar Solet, Andreas Ulmer; Nicolas Siewald, Maurits Kjaergaard, Lucas Gourna-Douath; Luka Sucic; Fernando, Noah Okafor. 

Roma (3-4-2-1): Rui Patricio; Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling, Roger Ibanez; Nicola Zalewski, Bryan Cristante, Nemanja Matic, Stephan El Shaaraw; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala; Tammy Abraham.

Salzburg vs Roma Prediction

Based on Mourinho’s typically conservative approach in these high-stakes matches, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a scoreless share of the spoils. But since both sides have recently been regular on the scoresheet, a 1-1 scoreline could be in store.

Prediction: Draw

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