Austria keep Janko in reserve with one eye on Ireland
FOR all their efforts to disguise it, signals from the Austria camp indicate that Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Ireland is taking priority over tonight's meeting with Group C leaders Germany at the Allianz Arena (7.45).
Soundbites from their manager Marcel Koller and star player David Alaba all week about causing an upset in Munich have chimed to perfection, yet it is clear that the visit of Giovanni Trapattoni's men in four days' time is consuming their thoughts.
With his team ahead of Ireland and Sweden only on goal difference in the chase for second place, Koller is aware that Austria's duels with Ireland next week and the Swedes on October 11 will be the pivotal fixtures to determining which of the three nations gets through to the play-offs in November.
It's for that reason that veteran striker Marc Janko is likely to be left on the bench tonight. The Trabzonspor giant is one of the seven players running the gauntlet of picking up a booking and missing out on Tuesday, and is also nursing a thigh injury.
The forward, who played under Trapattoni at Red Bull Salzburg, reckons Austria have proven they're capable of usurping their two rivals for the play-off spot.
"We've achieved the last two results in the group against Ireland and Sweden with the help of our team spirit," said the 30-year-old. "Look at how our team bounced back to get a 2-2 draw in the last minute in Ireland. That equaliser was what we deserved and it helped us push on for the win over Sweden."
Stoke City's €2.6m deadline day capture Marko Arnautovic also has one eye on Ireland's visit to the Ernst Happel Stadium, though he confessed: "If we say that, it would mean we don't want to beat Germany."
Driving the former Werder Bremen striker's desire to beat the Mannschaft tonight is atonement for the reverse meeting of the teams. Arnautovic squandered a late chance in Vienna to grab a draw in the 2-1 defeat.
"Not only do I have a score to settle, but all of the team have," he said.
More than just revenge is on the menu for the poster boy of Austrian football, Alaba, a midfielder for his country but the left-back in Bayern Munich's Champions League triumph last season.
One of nine Bundesliga-based players in Austria's squad, tonight's meeting represents a homecoming for the playmaker who deflated Irish fans with a stoppage-time equaliser in March at Lansdowne Road.
"There is no fear among our squad of playing in Germany," said the 21-year-old. "By making life difficult for the Germans, there is the chance we can come away from the match with something."