After a four week long winter break, the Bundesliga gets back underway on the weekend. FC Augsburg will start their second half of the season by welcoming Hamburg to the WWK Arena on Saturday at 15:30 CET. Manuel Baum will have to do without his top goalscorer to kick off 2018, however.
With the 25 day winter break in the books, the ball will finally get rolling in the Bundesliga again this weekend. “The winter break was really important for us,” said head coach Manuel Baum. “The boys’ bodies were definitely in need of some down time after what was a tough Hinrunde. It’s good both physically and mentally to have a break from football for a bit.” Michael Gregoritsch is one such player who is ready and raring to go: “It’s good to be back playing football again. My batteries are recharged and I’m feeling 100 percent.”
The Austrian could be playing a bit further forward than he might be used to when Hamburg come to town. Alfred Finnbogason will miss the Rückrunde opener as he continues to deal with a cold and Achilles problems. Aside from Gregoritsch, Baum named Sergio Cordova, Dong-Won Ji and Marco Richter as possible replacements for the top goalscorer.
Gregoritsch already has some experience in this role, after he led the line in FCA’s 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. “When you play up there, your back is mostly facing the opposing goal, but in general there isn’t too much of a difference to playing as an attacking midfielder,” explained the forward, who feels comfortable in both spots. Whatever happens, the Austrian wants to “get off to a good start” in the Rückrunde and adds “we’ll do everything to get the win.”
Baum on Hamburg: “They’re a team that presses very well”
After HSV came out on top in the previous fixture between the two sides, Michael Gregoritsch makes it clear that “we want revenge.” A lot has happened since the encounter back in August, with nine points separating the two sides. However, Baum is very aware of the threat that they pose to FCA: “They’re a team that presses really well and play with a lot of intensity,” said the 38-year-old about this weekend’s opponent’s strengths.
Gregoritsch has similar praise for the long-time Bundesliga outfit. “They press you relentlessly and are very good at switching defence into attack,” said the forward. “They’re a very good side and we cannot underestimate them.” FCA’s number 11 wore the HSV shirt for two years, before he moved down south to Augsburg in the summer of 2017. With a total of eight goals and five assists to his name, the Austrian has been one of the most effective attackers this season.
His coach doesn’t just praise his offensive qualities though. “We already knew he was good on the ball,” said Baum. “His work off the ball goes a bit underappreaciated. He has taken a big step forward in that regard.” Gregoritsch’s all-round ability will once again be crucial on Saturday – whether as a striker or as an attacking mid.