(Reuters) - If Austria are ever going to end their dismal run of defeats against neighbors Germany, then Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in Vienna would appear to be the ideal opportunity.
The two neighbors shared one of the fiercest rivalries in Europe during the 1970s and 1980s, however Austria's unhappy decline has turned recent meetings into a procession of wins for their larger neighbors.
Germany have won their last seven meetings against Austria, demolishing them 6-2 in the most recent encounter last year during Euro 2012 qualifying and scoring 25 goals in the process.
Austria's most recent win was in 1986 and the last time they avoided defeat against Germany was a goalless draw 20 years ago.
However, they will start their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign with renewed hope, thanks partly to a bright generation of players many of whom ply their trade in Germany's Bundesliga.
Germany also look vulnerable after their disappointing Euro 2012 semi-final exit to Italy and a 3-1 home to defeat to Argentina in a friendly last month.
They did little more than their duty in beating Faroe Islands 3-0 in their opening qualifier last Friday.
Paradoxically, Austria domestic football's financial difficulties have helped the national side with clubs such as Rapid Vienna and Austria Vienna preferring to field home-grown players to foreign imports.
Ten of Austria's squad play for Bundesliga clubs and are familiar faces to German fans, including Christian Fuchs (Schalke 04), Andreas Ivanschitz (Mainz 05), Martin Harnik (VfB Stuttgart) and Sebastian Proedl (Werder Bremen).
The latest addition is midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic who has quickly settled at Werder Bremen after moving from Austria Vienna.
Marko Arnautovic could also be a name for the future if he can overcome the numerous disciplinary problems which have so far prevented him from fulfilling his promise and led to him being dropped at both club and international level.
Every season begins with Arnautovic promising to turn over a new leaf, though this time he has so far kept out of trouble.
Austria's outstanding prospect is teenager David Alaba, already a regular at Bayern Munich, although he will miss the game through injury.
Austria's Swiss coach Marcel Koller will be making his competitive debut although he has been in charge for one year.
He still remembers watching on television when Austria managed a memorable 3-2 win over the former West Germany at the 1978 World Cup.
"When Austria beat Germany in Cordoba, I was watching on the television and I was as excited as anyone else. For us in Switzerland as well, matches against Germany are always a highlight," he said.
Repeating it would be tough, he admitted. "Great teams have few weak points. Of course, we have studied the Germans meticulously and draw our conclusions, but that is not something we are going to make public."
"We need to be at our best on Tuesday as the Germans, in spite of their home made problems, are still a top-level team who have outstanding players, above all in attack, who are very dangerous in one-to-one situations."
Germany won 2-1 in Vienna last year in a Euro 2012 qualifier after Mario Gomez scored late in each half. However, Gomez is missing through injury this time and coach Joachim Loew is worried about the team's lack of finishing power.
That was evident in their 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands on Friday, when Germany could have had half a dozen first half goals but ended up with just one.
"Our problem is that we need too many chances before we actually score a goal," said Loew. "The Faroes were not a measuring stick for the other teams we have to play against in the group.
"It was the small details which were missing for us to score more goals."
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Martyn Herman)