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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Red Bull Salzburg's recent poor home record in European play is a definite concern for Maccabi Haifa, even though one would think it would encourage the Israeli champ.
In its last four continental ties, two this season and two last season, the Austrian champion has failed to claim a single victory at the Red Bull Arena.
Last season, Salzburg lost at home to Suduva Marijampole of Lithuania, but still advanced in the UEFA Cup thanks to its road victory in the first leg.
In the next round, however, the Austrians' continental campaign was brought to an end with a 2-0 home loss to Sevilla.
Salzburg continued to struggle in European home matches this season.
The team hosted Ireland's Bohemian and Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb in the first legs of the Champions League's second and third qualifying rounds, respectively, and in both matches could only manage to draw 1-1.
Nevertheless, the side progressed after it recorded road victories in the return legs.
Salzburg's difficulties at the Red Bull Arena should, in theory, give Haifa a real reason for optimism. However, Salzburg would not have won the Austrian championship last season had it been a bad home team and prior to its recent run, the club was unbeaten at home in European competition since 2003, winning six of seven matches.
In fact, the only actual conclusion which can be drawn from all of the above is that Salzburg is long overdue a significant home victory. The question is, will it come at Haifa's expense?
The answer to that lies in the solution to another question.
Which Haifa team will show up at the Red Bull Arena?
Will it be the one that conceded three goals in the first 15 minutes of its match against FK Aktobe of Kazakhstan? Or perhaps the one which scored four goals in the subsequent 57 minutes to complete a truly memorable comeback victory?
Haifa showed two weeks ago that it can go from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again within mere minutes.
Salzburg's home form could play a key role in Wednesday's match, but the eventual result will be determined more than anything else by Haifa's ability to overcome its volatile inconsistency.