Coaches tip ‘Bulls’ to defend title

Four in ten Austrian Bundesliga club bosses said champions Red Bull Salzburg were favourites to win the 2010/2011 title.Sturm Graz coach Franco Foda, Magna Wiener Neustadt’s Peter Schöttel, Kapfenberg manager Werner Gregoritsch as well as “Bulls” boss Huub Stevens said today (Tues) they tipped last season’s champs to win the trophy once more.Red Bull won their third league ahead of Austria Vienna and 2008 champions Rapid Vienna, while ÖFB Cup winners Sturm Graz finished in fourth.Mattersburg coach Franz Lederer, SV Ried boss Paul Gludovatz, LASK Linz manager Helmut Kraft (LASK) and Wacker Innsbruck’s Walter Kogler expect last year’s dominating trio to battle it out once more.Austria Vienna manager Karl Daxbacher said he was convinced his team had the potential to come first, while Rapid coach Peter Pacult said the same teams as ahead of the past season must be favoured this time around.Red Bull play Faroe Islands league champions HB Tórshavn in the first leg of the second UEFA Champions League qualification round tonight before the league kicks off on Saturday.Foda meanwhile said his team will have to do without midfielder Klaus Salmutter for around six weeks after the 26-year-old former LASK star suffered a torn muscle fibre in the right thigh during warming up for the friendly against English side Blackburn Rovers on Saturday (0-0).Rapid’s title bid was dealt a massive blow by news that Norwegian defender Ragnvald Soma will be sidelined for more than a month with a complex ankle injury he sustained last week.The team of Peter Pacult lost against Belgium league champions RSC Anderlecht 1-2 on Saturday. It was Rapid’s final friendly before the start of the new season.The squad is set to clash with Lithuanian cup winners FK Sūduva Marijampolė in the second qualifying round of the upcoming UEFA Europa League on 15 July.Austria Vienna keeper Robert Almer meanwhile rubbished reports he was about to join archrivals Rapid. “These speculations mentioned an alleged statement of mine – which is totally made up,” the former Mattersburg goalie stressed.Almer is currently battling it out with Heinz Lindner and Szabolcs Sáfár over who will keep goal for the 27-time ÖFB Cup champions.Former Austria Vienna striker Rubin Okotie has all chances to make 1. FC Nürnberg’s starting eleven next season after scoring three goals in the German Bundesliga team’s 15-0 win against amateur club FV Bellenberg on Sunday.Okotie left Austria Vienna a few weeks ago, while sports press claimed Red Bull were also interested in signing him up.Sturm Graz star Daniel Beichler is meanwhile expected to join Hertha BSC Berlin. The German second-league club signalled interest in the national team striker, but allegedly hope for Sturm to lower the requested transfer sum.Around 15 Austrian footballers are currently under contract with German top-flight and second-league clubs.