Sturm are without both first choice centre backs which is a major loss to their defensive stability. Fullback Lykogiannis deputised in the heart of defence midweek in the Europa League though Puchegger may come in to start alongside Maresic. Jeggo may come in for Lovric while Schmerböck and Röcher are small doubts. The mood in the camp has been massively increased after they managed to get into the next round of the Europa League by defeating Mladost Podgorica on Thursday night. They are strong and despite defensive difficulties, should be able to beat the -1 handicap against key relegation candidates St. Pölten. Scoring first and establishing early control is the aim but they won’t abandon their dominant style. They’ll be only interested in getting all three points and don’t expect them to play to their limits once they are ahead as next week they’ll face Fenerbahce in Europe. Going over the 2.5 line is likely and will mainly depend on them being able to open the scoring in the first half. In case they need to chase, the game will become one-sided and their patience and efficiency will be tested.
St. Pölten are coming into the new season pretty changed compared to the team which managed to confirm safety in the 2016/2017 season. There aren’t any injury absentees though their recent signings Hofbauer and Davies are still ineligible. Competition for places is strong but the overall quality of the squad remains questionable. Expect them to play cautiously from the start. Morale in the camp has been notably hit by their early Cup exit while the recent dispute between players in the team which resulted in Luckassen being released, has increased instability in the dressing room. Against Sturm, they’ll be keen to avoid defeat and they’ll line up in that manner. In this atmosphere, anything but a clear defeat will be a big ask for them. Their defensive approach will probably mean that the majority of the incidents will occur in their half. Their back line will be forced to absorb some pressure so keeping up concentration is something they’ll need if they are to avoid conceding early. A 0-0 draw will be hard to achieve whilst keeping it under the 2.5 line will depend on their defensive performance in the first half.
Verdict & Prediction
After Sturm’s crucial midweek win in Podgorica, the atmosphere around the team is extremely good. The fans will come in numbers to support their players, who are going to target all three points against one of the biggest relegation candidates. Anything less than all three points will be treated as a bad start to the new season. At home, they are going to be treated as big favourites and despite their midweek involvement, they should have enough quality to overcome St. Pölten at home.
Prediction: Sturm Graz -0.50 Asian Handicap (Sturm Graz to win)
Odds: 1.95 Pinnacle