The Bundesliga finally returns! After a long summer break, FC Augsburg kick off their new season away against Fortuna Düsseldorf this Saturday (15:30 CEST). The players are looking forward to the start of the season against the newly promoted Rhineland side, but are also wary of the size of the task ahead this season.
“Fortuna are playing at home and they’ve still got the euphoria from last-season’s promotion, so I believe the stadium will be nearly sold out” said Augsburg coach Manuel Baum at a press conference before the game. “We will have to work hard to take something out of the match – just like in every Bundesliga game!”
The long preparation for the new season has met the satisfactions of the 38-year-old coach, although it has been marred by some injuries. A 2-1 win against TSV Steinbach-Haiger in the DFB Pokal was a sign of improvement in the team’s first competitive game of the season, although not everything was going well in the match. However, the team’s self-confidence was boosted in this game with André Hahn scoring the winning goal in his first match since returning to the team. “I’ve been received really well not only by the team but also by the fans. I want to pay them back with a good performance on Saturday, it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders when I scored such an important goal”, Hahn rejoiced. It was his first goal in FC Augsburg colours for 4 years and 101 days.
The FCA number 28 also has positive memories of playing in Düsseldorf. “I made my Bundesliga debut against Fortuna in January 2013. I waited for six minutes on the touchline for my substitution to come up on the board, the ball simply didn’t want to go out of play” Hahn grinned. “By the end of the game I hadn’t touched the ball but we won 3-2 and I was up and running. It would obviously be brilliant if history were to repeat itself with a victory for us!”
The fact that this game is against newly promoted opposition may make this match seem easy on paper, although Manuel Baum doesn’t see it that way: “I’m expecting a very emotional match with a lot of battles. Düsseldorf defend well and compactly, they are hard to break down and are physically assertive. They will be hard to breakdown.” The FCA coach currently has a headache not only in analysing his team’s opponents and developing the best match plan, but also deciding which of his two goalkeepers will start on Saturday. “I still don’t know who will start in goal. It is incredibly difficult, because Andreas Luthe and Fabian Giefer have both played well in preparation for the new season. They’re level pegging as it stands. I will make a decision on Friday at the team hotel and let them know” says Baum.
The availability of outfield players is a bit easier, with Jan Moravek and Ja-Choel Koo both returning and offering Baum two more options in the squad. Both have completed full training with the team and are available for Saturday. However FCA must unfortunately do without Fredrik Jensen (ankle strain), Julian Schieber (rehab after a knee operation), Alfred Finnbogasson (inflammation of the patella tendon) and Kilian Jakob (training to regain fitness after breaking his kneecap).
Nevertheless, everyone at FCA is looking forward to the new season finally getting under way. “I’m ready” says André Hahn. “The preparations have been good but now what matters is what happens on the pitch” his coach says.