Rapid Vienna’s home game against West Ham United had sold out for weeks. Due to the confinement, the Greens-Whites are now worried about survival in the Europa League without supporters.
Steffen Hofmann is aiming for his second victory as a fast coach. APA / HERBERT PFARRHOFER
Thursday (6:45 p.m.) Rapid Vienna has the dubious honor of playing the first professional phantom football match in Austria since the new lockdown took effect. The Europa League game at Allianz Stadium against West Ham has reportedly been sold out with over 23,000 spectators, now the Hütteldorfer must achieve a positive result without public support for hope to hibernate in the Coupe d ‘ Europe remains.
Europa League, Matchday 5
In Group H, West Ham leads after four of six rounds with ten points ahead of Dinamo Zagreb (6), KRC Genk (4) and Rapid (3rd). First place means promotion to the round of 16, second place means participation in the round of 32, and third place means advancement to the round of 32 in the Conference League. However, after the duel with the Premier League club, it could be clear that Rapid will finish last in Group H and be eliminated – if Londoners win in Vienna and Genk simultaneously score three points in the side match at Dinamo Zagreb.
Current Rapids coach Steffen Hofmann wants to avoid this scenario. The interim successor to Dietmar Kühbauer prefers to remember the legendary European Cup battles of the Hütteldorfer, in which he himself took part, for example against Aston Villa. As then, a surprise against a representative of the Premier League is possible this time around, Hofmann stressed. “We have to be courageous and we will,” said the German-born. They will “enter the game with a quick mind, give it their all, and see what comes out of it.”
300th European Cup match for Rapid
Hofmann is Rapid’s record holder with 74 international caps and 25 goals, his club facing the 300th European Cup game against West Ham. It hurts that no fan is allowed on this occasion. “It’s extremely sad. You could have helped us a lot in a game like this,” said Hofmann.
The bleak backdrop won’t diminish motivation, the 41-year-old promised. “The European Cup is the best thing for a player, something very special,” said Hofmann. The Rapid record holder made his debut on Saturday in a 1-0 win over Altach in his new role and has been coaching the pros for two weeks. How long this will be the case is open. “Until Zoki (Note: Sport General Manager Zoran Barisic) comes in and says, ‘That’s it, next one please,’” smiled Hofmann.
In the meantime, he wants to mature more as a coach. “I know what I can do and what I’m not good at, and I have people around me who are supportive of me,” said the former director. Hofmann considers one of his strengths to be the ability to empathize with players and a certain serenity. “I don’t consider myself more important than I am, no matter what position I find myself in.”
Hofmann: “A big task”
Hofmann sees room for improvement in his own experience – in this regard, West Ham manager, 58, David Moyes, with coaching positions at Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad, is well ahead on him. West Ham made a remarkable development under the Scots, said Hofmann. “They are strong physically and they have great players. It’s a big job for us, but we are looking forward to it.”
West Ham are currently fourth in the Premier League and recently recorded six wins and one draw in competitive matches before a 0-1 loss at Wolverhampton on Sunday. On Sunday there is an away game against defending champion Manchester City, second – so it’s entirely possible Moyes will award either key player like Declan Rice, scorer in the win. 2-0 against Rapid in September, a break against Rapide.
The “Hammers” did without a final training session at the Allianz stadium and instead trained in London on Wednesday before heading to Vienna in the evening. Theoretically, Moyes can fall back on his entire squad except Angelo Ogbonna, who suffers from a cruciate ligament injury. However, Hofmann has yet to do without Richard Strebinger, Kevin Wimmer and Leo Greiml. Unlike the game Altach, Maximilian Hofmann, who was released from corona quarantine, and young dad Koya Kitagawa are available again.