For a side largely associated with mid-table mediocrity since they returned to the Bundesliga in 2011, Augsburg look like they could be on the brink of something more this season.
The 2019/20 campaign certainly got off to an inauspicious start for Augsburg as they were hammered 5-1 by Borussia Dortmund, and they then picked up just one win in their next nine league matches.
Just when alarm bells were starting to ring, Die Fuggerstadter then revived their season went on a six-game unbeaten run – winning five of those in the process – before they ended the Hinrunde – or first half of the season – with a 3-1 defeat to RB Leipzig.
Where Heart Meets Mind: FC Augsburg
As things stand, they are 10th on the table with a healthy eight-point buffer between them and the relegation zone and, if this were to be their position come the end of the campaign, it would certainly be an acceptable result.
But there has been a certain vibrancy to this side under Martin Schmidt that suggests they could aim higher – especially considering they are closer to the European qualification spots – just five points behind 6th-placed Bayer Leverkusen – than they are to the drop zone.
They also boast a better scoring record than Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, Freiburg and Wolfsburg, the four teams immediately above them, which suggests they have sufficient firepower.
An European adventure would not be completely foreign to Augsburg as they did qualify for the Europa League in 2015/16 following an impressive fifth-place finish, where they went on to even reached the Round of 32 before narrowly losing 1-0 on aggregate to Liverpool.
The quality of the teams in the upper half of the table suggests that they face an uphill task, but the competitive nature of Bundesliga this term and the fact that Augsburg are a very decent team means they cannot be written off as yet.
THE HEART – FLORIAN NIEDERLECHNER
Already 29, Florian Niederlechner has had to pay his dues to reach the very top, only featuring in the Bundesliga for the first time just over four years ago.
Since then, in spells with Mainz and Freiburg, he has proven to be a combative forward who never gives up on a lost cause but also with a keen eye for goal, so his impressive start to life at the WWK Arena should not really come as a surprise.
Having joined Augbsurg on a three-year deal at the start of the season, Niederlechner is currently their top scorer with eight goals – a tally that would actually also make him the standout in that category at 13 of the other 17 Bundesliga clubs.
With Schmidt often opting for a 4-4-1-1, Niederlechner can often be seen chasing down one defender after another in a bid to be the first line of pressure, which is a task he does not seem to mind one bit.
THE MIND – PHILIPP MAX
Into his fifth season with Augsburg now, Philipp Max has established himself as one of the competition’s most-consistent left-backs and it should come as no surprise that is regularly linked to some of the Bundesliga’s bigger teams.
Although he excels in his primary job of a defender, the 26-year-old boasts the attacking ability usually associated with out-and-out wingers, proving to be an expert at taking on and beating his man before swinging in an inch-perfect delivery.
Just two seasons ago, he was the league’s second-highest assist provider with 12 and he already has four to his name in 2019/20.
With his cultured left foot, Max is also a specialist when it comes to dead-ball situations and expect him to add to his six goals in the second half of the season – a tally for a defender matched only by Eintracht Frankfurt’s Martin Hinteregger.