Whoever anticipated newly-promoted FC Ingolstadt 04 dropping off the pace following their stirring start to the season will have been left disappointed. With 20 points from 15 games, Die Schanzer have had a most impressive debut season in the Bundesliga so far.
Before the acid test comes this weekend against FC Bayern München, bundesliga.com spoke to their goalkeeper Ramazan Özcan to gather his thoughts on life in the Bundesliga, his admiration for Bayern and what he has his sights set on.
bundesliga.com: Ramazan Özcan, the winter break is approaching and now is a good time to reflect on the season so far…
Ramazan Özcan: I think that's fair enough. With 20 points in the bank, we've had a pretty good first half of the season. Nobody can take these points off us now, but we also know there is still a long way to go.
bundesliga.com: That's a pretty modest assessment considering you've put in some impressive performances and are deserving of being in mid-table…
Özcan: I've been a professional footballer for 13 years and I think it's my duty to be modest, because I know full well how quickly things can change in football – both in a positive and negative sense. Maybe that makes me seem a bit more cautious than others.
bundesliga.com: Aren't you surprised by how quickly your team have acclimatised to life in the Bundesliga, though?
Özcan: I'm not going to lie – it really has been surprising how well and how quickly we acclimatised. At the same time, though, there has not been one moment so far when I've been able to say "I can sit back now and enjoy what we've achieved". It's a brutally difficult challenge, and it never ends. Once one game is over, you're already thinking about your next. It's been an amazing year for me: the second half of last season, plus my time with my national team. This has been the most exciting and most successful year of my career and I'm sure we can enjoy it for a bit after the winter break. This break comes at a good time for us, and we know we're going to have to do just as well after it as we have done so far if we want to stay up.
'This is the easiest game of the season – nobody expects anything from us'
bundesliga.com: What are your feelings going into Saturday's game with Bayern?
Özcan: We're all looking forward to this game in particular, because we're meeting probably the best team in the world right now. We've got a great deal of respect for Bayern, not only for their recent achievements on the field, but also for what they have built up there over decades – they really are role models for many clubs in Europe. We know it's not going to be easy for us in Munich, but we're still going to try our best for 90 minutes. After all, this is the easiest game of the season – nobody expects anything from us.
bundesliga.com: As a goalkeeper, you can expect a busy afternoon – is that something you look forward to?
Özcan: I don't want this to sound like I'm laying down the gauntlet or anything, but I really am looking forward to this game. The best thing any footballer can do is measure up to the best in the world. Last season, we were watching Bayern on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Champions League, or at the weekend in the Bundesliga on television. Now we're allowed to play against them! It's amazing and it really hammers home what we've achieved.
bundesliga.com: What is the target for you? Survival in the Bundesliga, and then EURO 2016 with Austria?
Özcan: First of all, survival is all that matters. Ingolstadt is where I earn my living and we've seen how amazing it is to play on such a stage. This is something we desperately want again next season, which is why staying up is the utmost priority for me. What comes after that will just be the cherry on top.
Ramazan Özcan was talking to Andreas Kötter