FCA kick off the second half of the season against Hoffenheim
The first game of the Rückrunde sees FC Augsburg travel to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday (15:30 CET). Sever players are back to full fitness and head coach Markus Weinzierl has “A score to settle” against TSG. He was optimistic in his press conference ahead of the game in Sinsheim.
“We are definitely the underdogs, but we feel good in that role,” said Weinzierl, looking ahead to the game. FCA were on the end of a 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture this season, so there are some things to put right for Weinzierl and his side. “If we go out and are compact and aggressive, and take our chances, we can definitely take something home from there,” he said assuredly. “We need to bring our ‘A-game’ on Saturday so that we can build on the last couple of games before the winter break,” he added.
FCA’s head coach knows Hoffenheim have a lot of individual class, and Ruben Vargas is well aware of the challenge: “We know that Hoffenheim have some great players – we’ll need to take them out of the game.” Nevertheless, the Swiss is confident: “We’ve developed very well recently and found some stability just before the winter break. We need to be stronger going forward; that’s the most important thing we need to improve in the second half of the season.”
In general, Weinzierl has been impressed by Hoffenheim’s recent form and development: “They have a good squad and have taken advantage of some teams having a dip in form. They have some top individual players, and to have a striker like Andrej Kramaric is a massive bonus for them.” At the same time, FCA’s head coach admires the structure that has been developed at TSG and is not surprised with the way they have performed this season.
In terms of personnel, things are looking good for Weinzierl and he can choose from almost his entire squad. Niklas Dorsch has left quarantine after testing negative and has been back on the pitch since Wednesday. Florian Niederlechner trained well during the winter break, but took a knock in the previous session – whether he plays on Saturday is dependent on how he feels in Friday’s training session. Felix Uduokhai is back to full fitness and ready to play, following a several-month-long injury break. Daniel Klein will take his place on the bench as number two goalkeeper behind Rafał Gikiewicz, as Tomáš Koubek remains in quarantine. Alfred Finnbogason is on his way back and completed a partial training session on Thursday for the first time. New signing Ricardo Pepi is available for the game against Hoffenheim.
The 18-year-old American has made a good start to life in Augsburg. “He’s made a good impression and is a great young lad,” said Weinzierl. “Ricardo is young and still has a couple of steps to take, so we’ll use him sparingly. I trust him to make a good impression. We have a good team in general and now we’ve got a bit more strength in depth,” the head coach explained. Ruben Vargas’ main concern is to make Pepi’s first few days at FCA as calm as possible. “We need to take him in here, because he needs a bit of time to get fully up to speed. We’ll do all we can to make him feel as at home as possible and then he’ll definitely be able to help us on the pitch,” said the Swiss.