Kick-Off: Sunday 23/03, 14:00 GMT.
Records: First game of the year, both 0-0.
Last Meeting: Austrian Bowl, July 27th 2013. Vikings 48 – 31 Raiders.
Player to Watch: Raiders: John van Der Raadt (VDR). The new quarterback takes over from Kyle Callahan (who we expect to excel as a wide receiver) with some impressive stats under his belt. Having recorded a perfect 10-0 record for the Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons last year, he has been thrust into the deep end with his first game coming against the most successful team in AFL history. Forging an early relationship with WR Damaso Tarneller could be the key to winning tomorrow, and with an excellent running game he’s certainly going to be the catalyst for success. Expect him to do very well this season and fight with Christoph Gross for the position of the league’s best quarterback.
Vikings: Signing Emmanuel Moody as a replacement for Jesse Lewis has already signalled the Vikings’ intent to defend their AFL crown. Moody, previously signed and subsequently released from the Buffalo Bills, played three games for the Dresden Monarchs in Germany last season, notching up 81 yards and a TD from only 11 carries, whilst rushing for 644 yards from 124 carries for the Florida Gators when alongside Tim Tebow. With former Sooner DJ Wolfe only playing in the Big 6 EFL for the Raiders this year, Moody can stamp his authority as the leading running back in the AFL with a solid performance here.
Key Matchup: With both teams recruiting well, the real battle could be on the line. The Vikings’ offensive line were named collective MVP in last year’s final (and had to share a Chevrolet Camaro between them) and will likely be dominant once again. If Florian Hueter and the other Raiders linebackers can stuff the Vikings usually-strong run game, then anything will be possible. Otherwise, how Alexandr Taheri and the rest of the Vikings’ D-line handle VDR’s dual-threat could be decisive.
Preview: Both teams have new players in key positions, so it will be interesting to see how they fare on their respective debuts. In last year’s final, the Raiders’ poor clock management lost them the game as much as their poor run defence. Raiders HC Shuan Fatah commented “We cannot wait for this game – what better way than at the start of the season to get revenge” (The Raiders lost FOUR times to the Vikings last season). Undefeated since 2012, the Vikings should give the ball to Moody and put points up early, but whoever scores first will have enough momentum to grab a win. Keep your eyes on last year’s QB Kyle Callahan, now a player-coach but likely to step in at WR too. Finally, look out for the 6”7 Manuel Thaller for the Vikings as he looks to continue his impressive pre-season form.
Prediction: Closer than ever, but the Vikings should edge it 34-24.