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With a host of missing players, Austria could well be there for the taking

Marcel Koller must prepare for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Ireland with a severely-depleted squad.

The team that started against Ireland in November.
The team that started against Ireland in November.
Image: John Walton

AUSTRIA ARRIVE IN Dublin this week a wounded animal.

After failing to live up to expectation levels at Euro 2016, they haven’t been able to shake off that uninspiring form in the first half of the current World Cup qualifying campaign.

Seven points from a possible 15 leaves Marcel Koller’s side four adrift of both Serbia and their latest opponents Ireland in Group D, and defeat at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday could in fact spell the end of the Swiss-born manager’s six-year tenure.

Koller is under real pressure to mastermind a victory and his job has been made considerably tougher by a raft of absentees.

From the 11 Austrian players that started in Ireland’s famous win in Vienna back in November, five are missing for various reasons. Add another four squad members to that group and it’s clear that this week’s visitors are far from full-strength.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group C - Austria v Republic of Ireland - Ernst Happel Stadium Manager Marcel Koller. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan, who was named between the sticks that night, announced his retirement from international football in March due to personal reasons.

With Robert Almer and Andreas Lukse also injured, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Heinz Lindner is set to continue as the makeshift number one.

Left-back has been a problem position for Austria since Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs hung up his international boots after last year’s Euros, with Tottenham defender Kevin Wimmer and Martin Hinteregger of Augsburg both tried there in recent times.

To add to that, Koller was critical of rarely-used Red Bull Salzburg full-back Andreas Ulmer after booking his wedding day for the same week as this game.

In midfield, there’s no Alessandro Schöpf (injured), Stefan Ilsanker (suspended) but talisman David Alaba is expected to be fit after working his way back from a knee problem.

One of their biggest attacking threats misses out, however, as Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic will play no part due to suspension.

Austria v Wales - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Ernst Happel Stadium Stoke City's Marko Arnautovic will be a significant loss. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Another forward, Marcel Sabitzer, injured himself after bizarrely falling on a glass table at his home and it was confirmed yesterday that Sparta Prague’s new striker Marc Janko has also been added to that lengthy list of unavailable players due to tonsillitis.

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In Janko’s place, the uncapped Deni Alar has been called up. The 27-year-old Sturm Graz man joins Guido Burgstaller (Schalke) and Michael Gregoritsch (Hamburg) — a striker department Ireland should be encouraged by as they haven’t scored one international goal between the three of them.

While the Boys in Green have been kept busy with two warm-up matches in the past week, their opponents opted for a training camp over end-of-season friendlies. In fact, their last game of any kind was a 1-1 draw against Finland back in March.

Don’t say it too loudly, but the Austrians could well be there for the taking.

Unavailable: 

Ramazan Ozcan (retired)
Marko Arnautovic (suspended)
Stefan Ilsanker (suspended)
Robert Almer (injured)
Andreas Lukse (injured)
Alessandro Schöpf (injured)
Marcel Sabitzer (injured)
Marc Janko (injured)
Andreas Ulmer (wedding)

Austria squad to play Ireland: 

Goalkeepers: Heinz Lindner (Eintracht Frankfurt), Daniel Bachmann (Stoke), Markus Kuster (Mattersburg)

Defenders: Kevin Danso (Augsburg), Aleksandar Dragovic (Bayer Leverkusen), Martin Hinteregger (Augsburg), Stefan Lainer (RB Salzburg), Valentino Lazaro (RB Salzburg), Sebastian Prodl (Watford), Stefan Stangl (RB Salzburg), Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham)

Midfielders: David Alaba (Bayern Munich), Julian Baumgartlinger (Bayer Leverkusen), Florian Grillitsch (Werder Bremen), Martin Harnik (Hannover), Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen), Florian Klein (Werder Bremen), Konrad Laimer (RB Salzburg), Louis Schaub (Rapid Vienna)

Forwards: Guido Burgstaller (Schalke), Michael Gregoritsch (Hamburg), Deni Alar (Sturm Graz)

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