Tough task for Augsburg
After Markus Weinzierl’s four-year reign came to an end when departing for FC Schalke 04, Dirk Schuster stepped in from SV Darmstadt 98 to take charge of the Swabian side.
The fans of Augsburg will be hoping for Schuster to take them back into contention for European places after the former manager stabilised the club and reached the top half twice in the last three seasons — including a Europa League berth last time round.
Having spent the majority of the season amongst flirting with relegation, last year proved to be quite the fright for die Fuggerstädter. However, a relatively strong finish ended in a respectable, mid-table place finish.
Despite losing Ragnar Klavan to Liverpool FC, Schuster will surely be looking forward to kicking on this after making Iceland star Alfreð Finnbogason’s loan permanent and bringing in Jonathan Schmid from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
Wolfsburg aiming to get back on track
On the flip side to their opponents’ new appointment, Wolfsburg will stick to their guns for the fifth season in a row as Dieter Hecking will be at the helm once again to prove last season was just a blip on the road to more success.
Many a die Wölfe fan will be hoping for a repeat of their squad’s 2014/15 season heroics. A second place finish was capped off with a first ever DFB-Pokal trophy, but that has since been eclipsed by the inability to qualify for any European football.
A year after losing key players Kevin de Bruyne and Ivan Perišić, Wolfsburg were raided again; this time Max Kruse, André Schürrle and Naldo all left for pastures new — the latter two joining the two big Ruhr clubs.
As ever, there is a silver lining for the Lower Saxon side. Wise business from the hierarchy and sporting director Klaus Allofs saw a flurry of talent arrive. Most notably coming in the form of Mario Gómez after a strong season in Turkey, Yannick Gerhardt once of 1. FC Köln and Daniel Didavi on a free.
Since Augsburg’s promotion to the top tier, both sides have only faced each other ten times — twice in each of the five seasons. Said matches are often a close affair, but it is indeed Augsburg who claim bragging rights with four wins to Wolfsburg’s two. In total, a mere sixteen goals have been shared in all competitive meetings.
Unsurprisingly, last season’s fixtures didn’t give lie to the statement. A dull, goalless stalemate at the FCA-Arena was overlooked by Augsburg’s win at the Volkswagen Arena thanks to goals from Alfreð Finnbogason and Halil Altintop — crippling Hecking’s European aspirations.
Augsburg don’t face too big an injury epidemic. Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker and Paul Verhaegh remain a doubt with shin and ankle problems, whereas Marvin Friedrich remains a doubt. Silver medallist with the DFB team, Philipp Max, returns for action.
The Wolves may miss Joshua Guilavogui due to a neck injury suffered in pre-season, as well as Euro 2016 winner Vieirinha. Mario Gómez has been recently taking part in light training.
Koen Casteels will be the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, with veteran Diego Benaglio featuring in the DFB-Pokal.