The 2017/18 season is upon us: For the first competitive game of the season, FCA travel to Sachsen-Anhalt to face 1. FC Magdeburg. Newly-appointed captain Daniel Baier is certain that in this first-round DFB-Pokal tie against the third-division outfit: “We will beat Magdeburg if we play to the best of our potential. We’ve got to go there with a lot of self-confidence, the self-confidence of a Bundesliga side.” Around 400 FCA fans will travel to support Manuel Baum’s boys on Sunday, 13th August (18:30 CEST).
The new squad committee
Before the season finally gets underway, a few personnel matters had to be settled. Whilst Manuel Baum did not give anything away about questions surrounding the first-choice goalkeeper or other particular positions, he opened up to journalists at the press conference about his decision on the captain and squad committee for the upcoming season. Daniel Baier will take over captaincy duties from Paul Verhaegh. Alfred Finnbogason is the new vice-captain and the third deputy is Jeffrey Gouweleeuw. Philipp Max and Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, along with Baier, Finnbogason and Gouweleeuw, make up the squad committee. “With a centre-back, a defensive midfielder and a striker, we have the perfect balance in the leadership roles,” Baum explains. For Bauer, the new team committee evokes “mixed feelings”. “It is a huge shame for both the club and me personally that Paul has left. He was a very good friend to me in the seven years that he was with us. Despite this, it is a huge honour for me to wear the captain’s armband for FC Augsburg. It means a lot to me.”
DFB-Pokal opponents: 1. FC Magdeburg
Baier’s leadership qualities will come under the microscope on Sunday for the first time, against 1. FC Magdeburg. “Finally the football is back underway; I am really excited and looking forward to the game against Magdeburg.” Despite the excitement, Baier and Baum are both wary of underestimating their 3. Liga opponents: “We know that it will be a really tough task, not least because we went out of the cup at this stage three years ago.” Master tactician Manuel Baum knows how dangerous 1. FCM can be: “For the last two years running, Magdeburg have finished fourth in the league and so narrowly missed out on promotion on both occasions. We could therefore easily be playing against a second-division team on Sunday. Magdeburg are a side with a lot of character who press very well and can score goals early on.” Nonetheless, it is very important that FCA perform confidently, according to the head coach.
The DFB-Pokal is a very special tournament for Baier. “I said a few years ago that I wanted to play with FCA in Europe and reach the cup final. Honestly, I would say that at the time I thought Europa League qualification was more unlikely,” was Baier’s response to the question whether the target, of playing in a cup final for FCA, is still achievable.
As far as FCA coach Manuel Baum is concerned, the preparations for the new season came to an end with the start of the current week of training. “Since Tuesday, we’ve been back in our normal Bundesliga training routine,” explains Baum. He is “very pleased” with how pre-season went. The conclusions to be drawn from it were largely positive: “No serious injuries, well-organised training sessions involving lots of players, good training, and good execution of what we’ve been working on in the friendlies. We had a great pre-season.”
FCA need to follow this up with a positive result on Sunday in the first round of the DFB-Pokal, and then Daniel Baier will be a small step closer to realising his dream. In Magdeburg, Manuel Baum must do without Caiuby, Dong-Won Ji and Shawn Parker. “We are not going to take any risks with these three, and instead let them fully recover from their minor injuries.”