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Salzburg Needs to Climb a Mountain to Make the Champions League KO

Red Bull Salzburg grabbed an essential three points against Locomotiv Moscow earlier in the week with a 3-1 win that puts their fate in their own hands. Now, sitting on four points, they have the chance to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage with a win over Atletico Madrid next week. 

While that may seem straight-forward, the obstacle in their way may as well be a mountain in a Madrid team that has been featured in the later stages of European competitions on a regular basis. Still, it is a proving ground moment for a Salzburg team that has impressed and frustrated at times over their two-year history in the Champions League.

The game against Moscow showed just how impressive their youth production has become. Aside from shipping off talent such as Erling Haaland to bigger clubs, they have been able to replenish with players like Patson Daka and Mergim Berisha. The possibilities appear endless at the moment and manager Jesse Marsch is happy to guide the ship.

"The boys played really well," said Marsch about his team's recent victory. "It was one of our best matches in the Champions League. I am really please for Mergim (Berisha). He battled really well in every training session, he got his chance and gave it his all."

Salzburg have had a difficult time in Europe with two groups that have been punishing over the past two campaigns. Last season it was Liverpool and Napoli, this season it is Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich. The team was able to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League but the desire it to progress in the continent's top competition. For that to happen they will need to defeat a formidable Atletico Madrid team.

The win is possible. Last season RB Leipzig showed the blueprint of staying compact while taking calculated risks against a Madrid team that does have issues scoring goals. Marsch's club will need to do the same but with far less experience in such games. The task will be tall but a win would place Salzburg into the enviable position of becoming a destination for top young talent and potentially a rival to clubs like Ajax.


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