Rangers welcome Austrian side Rapid to Ibrox on Thursday evening. Joel Sked takes a look at the visitors.
New man in the dugout
Rangers will have to contend with the perceived ‘new manager bounce’ at Ibrox on Thursday night as Dietmar ‘Didi’ Kuhbauer takes charge for the first time.
That’s due to Kubauer leading former side St Polten to a 2-0 win over Rapid at the weekend. The result left the captial club languishing eighth in the 12-team Austrian Bundesliga and cost Goran Djuricin his job.
Djuricin did a good job in his first, and only, full season at the helm. Stepping up from assistant manager at the end of the 2016-2017 season, the 43-year-old improved on a fifth place finish to lead the club to third place and European qualification.
However, four defeats in the first nine league games, leaving the club 18 points behind Celtic’s opponents Salzburg prompted a “change in direction” from the club. Djuricin was already under pressure after reportedly making a gesture to his own fans after a win over a lower league team on a penalty shootout in the cup.
Kühbauer played 176 times for Rapid in the 90s, winning the league, cup and reaching the Cup Winners’ Cup final before a move to Real Sociedad.
He had taken over St Polten at the start of April this year when, after 28 games they were rooted to the bottom with 10 points. In the final eight games he achieved 10 points before winning the relegation play-off. St Polten sit second, which prompted Rapid’s interest.
“I have had a very high opinion of ‘Didi’ for a long time and have had very good discussions with him. I am convinced that... he fits in perfectly with the SK Rapid and I am delighted that he accepts our offer,” said sports director Freddy Bickel.
• READ MORE: Rangers boss Steven Gerrard looks for Rapid recovery
Rapid are led by 28-year-old Stefan Schwab. The Austrian international is the captain and talisman with the club’s website saying he “combines fighting elements and physical strength with fine technique and vision. This makes the player an ideal central midfielder who can combine defence with attack”.
The club’s website is not wrong. Last season was the best of his career as he netted 12 leagues goals and provided six assists in the league.
Schwab is a cultured central midfielder and, of course, that means he possesses a fine left foot. While he plays in a deep midfield position he support plays really well, capable of driving forward with the ball and taking players on or spotting a team-mate’s run and having the guile to eviscerate the opposition defence with a pass.
No player played more passes in the Bundesliga last season that Schwab. His success rate was only 81.26 per cent but that can be owed to the nature of the passes he made. He made the most passes to the final third, the most progressive passes and the most deep completions.
Schwab is a goal threat also as his return last season suggests. He is capable of finding the back of the net with a raking effort from distance but also has that Frank Lampard ability of arriving late into the box. In addition three of his goals came via headers.
Rangers’ home advantage
Not only are Rangers facing a struggling team but also a team who struggle away from Vienna.
Since the 2012-2013 season, Rapid have played 22 away games in the Europa League (and its qualifiers) but won only four times.
They have defeated AS Trenčín, Dinamo Minsk, Viktoria Plzeň and Dila Gori. Rapid have qualified once from the group stage but their prize was a 10-0 aggregate thumping from Valencia.
The mighty have fallen
With 32 league titles and 14 Austrian Cups, Rapid are the most successful team in Austria. Since 1910 the only decades they have not won the league are the 1970s and the current decade.
The club have fallen on harder times of late with only three Bundesliga victories since 1988.
Their derby with rivals Austria Vienna is the most-played in European football after the Old Firm.
Rangers will have to be vigilant to the Rapid-Viertelstunde, or Rapid-quarter hour. A tradition dating back to more than 100 years, it is said that the team come alive and do most of their attacking in the final 15 minutes.
It is beleived that it goes back to when the team played at Rudolfsheimer Platz where the clock of the Rudolfsheimer church could be seen from the ground.
Rangers’ kindred spirits?
While Rangers may sit at the top of a list of clubs Celtic fans want to see their team topple, Rapid Vienna may well be in the top 10 or even top 5, especially for avid supporters of the club in the mid-1980s.
Rapid face Celtic in the second round of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1984 and what prevailed was long, complex and somewhat bizarre tie.
The Austrians won the first-leg 3-1 in a tempestuous affair in Vienna with Celtic’s Alan McInally red carded and Peter Grant accused of stamping on an opponent.
Celtic, backed by a partisan home crowd, roared into action and won the second-leg 3-0. Only, the game went beyond 100 minutes due to crowd ‘disturbances’.
Seeing a bottle thrown from the crowd land on the pitch Rapid’s goalkeeper Herbert Feurer saw an opportunity and grasped it by falling to the ground as if hit. Subsequent footage showed the bottle was nowhere near the player.
He left the field of play for treatment as the away side sought abandonment. Yet, the game finished only for Rapid to lodge a complaint with missiles apparently being thrown in the direction of the linesman.
Roddy Forsyth wrote in the Telegraph: “What followed then was sheer farce. Uefa ruled that Wienhofer had not been struck, but fined Celtic £4,000 for the bottle being thrown, while Vienna were fined £5,000 for indiscipline.
“Rapid then appealed the verdict and were fined twice as much, but Celtic were told to replay the second leg – with the aggregate score from the first game still applicable – at least 100 miles from Glasgow.”
The game was played at Manchester United’s Old Trafford with Rapid wearing red shirts. The Austrians won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Peter Pacult. The match was again marred by fan violence with Rapid’s goalkeeper attacked by a Celtic fan, while Pacult suffered the indignity of being kicked in a very sensitive area.
Rapid went on to reach the final that season where they were defeated by Everton.
When the they faced Celtic in 2009 they wore a red shirt at Celtic Park as a throwback to that infamous game.