Wolfsberger AC have established themselves in the the top part of the Austrian football pyramid since earning their first ever Bundesliga promotion in the 2011/2012 season.
In the last decade, Wolfsberg have gradually improved and have already qualified to European football on four occasions.
Malta will provide familiar environment to Wolfsberg when they travel here to face Gżira United in the second leg of the third qualifying round.
The Austrian side travelled twice to the Maltese islands in 2017 and 2018 for a training camp, where they also played a number of matches including against Maltese teams.
A couple of years ago, the Times of Malta had also reported that Wolfsberg were interested in Malta international defender Kurt Shaw before talks had collapsed.
For Wolfsberg, the Gżira match represents their first qualifying match since 2015/2016 when they were dumped out by Borussia Dortmund 6-0 on aggregate in the third round of the UEFA Europa League.
In their following couple of appearances – 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, they had qualified directly to the group stages of the same competition.
Two draws against Roma and a 4-0 thumping of Borussia Monchengladbach was not enough for Wolfsberg to make it to the round of 32 in their debut appearance.
However, they managed to qualify from their group the following year after negotiating a tricky stage with the likes of CSKA Moscow, Feyenoord and Dinamo Zagreb.
Wolfsberg were rewarded with a fancy draw against Tottenham Hotspur but the English side were not in the mood for any fairytales, seeing off the Austrian side with an 8-1 aggregate.
Now, Wolfsberg will have to go through the qualification stages after finishing 4th in the Austrian Bundesliga last season.
“Wolfsberg are aiming to qualify to the group stages again after already doing so in the UEFA Europa League,” Austrian journalist Markus Sebestyen told the Times of Malta.
“They never had to go through qualifications to the group stages of the Europa League, so this is quite new to them.
Obviously, though, they know they are the favourites to make it through this round.”
Wolfsberg have already played their first two games of the Austrian Bundesliga season with two draws against Sturm Graz (1-1) and Miroslav Klose’s Altach (2-2).
In between, Wolfsberg also hosted Serie A champions Milan in a pre-season warm up with the Italian giants winning 5-0.
Sebestyen pointed out that Wolfsberg are currently rebuilding their team after parting ways with many players including their captain and two of their goalkeepers.
“They also switched their tactical shape from a 4-1-2-1-2 to a 3-5-2,” he explained.
Wolfsberg’s transfers ahead of the new season include two youngsters from Juventus – Italian defender Matteo Anzolin who played for their U-23 side and Austrian midfielder Ervin Ormic, who was the captain of their U-19’s side.
“Among their key players, Wolfsberg’s coach Robin Dutt, can rely on a number of players such as defender Simon Piesinger who plays in the centre of the back three,” Sebestyen said.
“Konstansin Kerschbaumer, who replaced former playmaker Michael Liendl and Tai Baribo, their best forward.”
Baribo, 24 year old, is an Israel international who scored 13 goals in 32 games in all competitions in his first year in Austria.
Photo: Wolfsberger AC