Augsburg - Regional pride is not the only thing on the line when FC Augsburg host fellow Bavarians 1. FC Nuremberg, with both sides determined to pick up potentially pivotal points in their respective Bundesliga survival struggles on Friday evening (kick-off 20:30 CET).
Augsburg have been in the thick of the relegation battle for much of the current campaign, while Friday’s visitors, unbeaten in five matches, have thus far steered clear of the drop zone despite since Matchday 7. “It’s almost like a cup game,” declared Nuremberg head coach Michael Wiesinger.
A win for Augsburg would take them another step closer to what not so long ago would have seemed highly improbable, namely top-flight survival, moving them to within three points of safety and adding to the hope of yet another remarkable comeback over the second season-half. “We’re well aware of what's at stake and will be giving it a real go again in this one,” stated Augsburg boss Markus Wienzierl. “My team have the absolute will to win.”
The 39-year-old has seen his charges, spearheaded by South Korean duo and , collect twelve points from a possible 21 since the winter break, a tally only bettered by the Bundesliga‘s top three, but Weinzierl is aware it could mean very little. “We’ve achieved nothing yet,” explained the former Regensburg head coach, who will be without the suspended Daniel Baier on Friday. “We have to, and want to, continue collecting points in order to close the gap on the non-relegation places and increase the pressure on the teams above us in the table.”
One of those sides, Nuremberg have done just enough to keep their points tally ticking over by collecting four consecutive draws in recent weeks, but are hoping to lay down a marker under the floodlights on Friday. “Everyone will be watching us and we have the chance to demonstrate that FC Nuremberg are here to stay,” said Wiesinger. “That’s why we're looking forward to the game.”
With the business end of the season approaching there has been no let up in der Club’s camp. “The lads are working really hard in training. They’re fully focused,” said Wiesinger, who can welcome back into the starting line-up this weekend. “It’s important that our central spine is solid and Pelle is a big part of that.” As the visitors have the league's lowest scoring record away from home (eight goals), the coach will need Japanese international back to his menacing best to have any chance of victory.
Augsburg top goalscorer Sascha Mölders believes his side can continue climbing towards mid-table if they do their “homework”, but it won’t be easy against a side they haven’t beaten since November 1976 and who themselves have not lost in five matches. “We're a difficult team to beat of late,” noted Wiesinger, whose priority is not just to keep that unbeaten streak going: "Our aim is to be 10 points ahead of Augsburg after the match.”
Augsburg: Amsif - Vogt, Callsen-Bracker, Klavan, Ostrzolek - Ottl - Hahn, Koo, Ji, Werner - Mölders
Nuremberg: R. Schäfer - Chandler, Nilsson, Klose, Plattenhardt - Simons - Kiyotake, Feulner, Balitsch, Esswein - Pekhart