Augsburg - After beating the drop courtesy of a 3-1 win over Greuther Fürth on the last day of last season, many onlookers predicted a difficult 2013/14 campaign for FC Augsburg. Fast-forward 10 months however, and the side have reaped the rewards of patience and hard work to engineer themselves a realistic chance of booking a place Europe next season.
A 2-1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend propelled the Függerstädter into the UEFA Europa League qualification spots, a testament to the club’s incredible development under Markus Weinzierl, the youngest head coach in the German top flight. "Togetherness moves mountains," claimed Weinzierl, who has repaid the faith shown in him by club chairman Walther Seinsch and sporting director Stefan Reuter. "None of this would be possible if everyone wasn't pulling in the same direction."
However, Augsburg are not letting themselves get distracted by thoughts of playing in a continental competition. “We're remaining realistic,” asserted Andre Hahn. “It's nice to see us so high up the standings, but our priority is survival.” With FC Schalke up next, this season’s high-fliers will face a true test of their top-six credentials, but for Jan Moravek it’s a chance to see a few familiar faces. Talking exclusively to bundesliga.com the Czech midfielder discussed Augsburg’s progress, the prospect of playing in Europe and facing his former club.
bundesliga.com:Jan Moravek, sitting in sixth place with 38 points, FC Augsburg are flying higher than ever. What are this team still capable of achieving this season?
Jan Moravek: We’re still taking it game by game, but want to keep putting points on the board. We’ve got five matches against top clubs coming up and we're determined to prove that it’s no fluke that we’ve climbed into the top six.
bundesliga.com: Augsburg are currently occupying a European qualification spot. You’ve all but guaranteed your place in Germany’s top flight next season. Are new targets being talked about, perhaps competing in the UEFA Europa League?
Moravek: We haven’t set ourselves any new targets. Right now the team are just enjoying playing football and we want to make sure that continues. After that we’ll see where we land in the standings come the end of the season.
bundesliga.com: This time last year you and your team-mates were battling relegation. What’s your explanation for how the club has progressed since?
Moravek: After collecting just nine points in the first half of last season, we all sat down together to analyse our situation. We then enjoyed incredible success in the second half of the season and worked hard to ensure that we survived the drop. The self-confidence that experience fostered was carried over into the current campaign, allowing us to produce top-notch performances. However, I don’t believe that we’ve reached the peak of our abilities and still have plenty of room to develop further.
bundesliga.com: Your team-mate Andre Hahn has epitomised Augsburg’s rise to prominence. He even received a . How did the team react to the news?
Moravek: Andre unquestionably deserved to be nominated as he’s been having an incredible season. The whole team were delighted for him and we all offered him our congratulations. Of course we all wish he had featured in the game itself, but he’s still young and will be given another chance at some point in his career, I have no doubt about that.
bundesliga.com: On Friday Augsburg will feature in the Matchday 25 curtain-raiser against fourth-placed FC Schalke 04. What are you hoping to achieve against the Royal Blues?
Moravek: We’re playing at home and are well aware that we can put in a very strong performance in front of our fantastic fans. Up until now we haven't been able to beat the league's the top teams and now we want to use our game against Schalke as a measuring stick and show exactly what we’re capable of.
bundesliga.com: You’re going up against your former colleagues such as Benedikt Höwedes, Joel Matip and Jefferson Farfan. What memories do you have of playing for Schalke?
Moravek: They opened the door for me to ply my trade in the Bundesliga and I scored my first goal in Germany’s top flight there. My time with the Royal Blues wasn’t always easy for me as it was my first experience in a foreign country, but I was able to learn a lot.
bundesliga.com: A win over Schalke would move Augsburg a step closer to the UEFA Champions League qualification spots. Halil Altintop (13 games), Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker (four games) and Alex Manninger (11 games) all have experience of Europe’s premier club competition. Are the team considering the possibility of featuring next season?
Moravek: Absolutely not. It’s not even a topic of discussion amongst the team. We’re keeping our feet well and truly planted on the ground and taking it one game at a time.