Malmo’s season started well. They were undefeated in their first eight games, recording wins against current league leaders, Gothenburg, and recent champions, Helsingborg, as well as a 2-2 draw at Elfsborg, but form soon slumped.
They’ve only recorded back to back wins in the league once since. Wednesday’s 3-0 over Salzburg is by some measure their best result of the season. Right now, there will be a lot of football fans in Austria wondering how on earth Salzburg are out of the Champions League. There’s a fair chance there’s just as many fans in Sweden wondering how Malmo remain in the competition, but there are clues.
Salzburg lost narrowly to Rapid Vienna days before the capitulation in Sweden, the second reversal in two league games this season. They beat a team from a regional league in the cup (0-7) but that and the 2-0 win over Malmo is the only positives in an early season full of panic.
Preseason friendlies are not to be regarded as an indication of anything, but home win over a weak-looking Southampton was the only friendly in which they avoided defeat in four attempts. At most this indicates their fitness was behind the curve.
The most telling inferences from all of these stats is that the margins between success and failure for Malmo, Salzburg, and Celtic, are tight. We could and should have beaten Maribor a year ago. Dedryck Boyata’s late goal against Qarabag transpired to be all that separated us from them. We are looking fit, and organised, but you and I both know we’ve yet to spark up front. We have a lot of work to do in the margins before the end of the month.