Unbeaten Bayern Munich may lead the German Bundesliga by seven points after fourteen games of the current campaign but the surprise team of the season to date are Augsburg occupying third position. They have won four successive games in addition to winning five consecutive league contests in their home stadium and they host Bayern in a Bavarian derby this weekend.
At one time FC Augsburg was considered one of the minor teams in Bavaria as matches between Bayern Munich and Nuremberg were considered more significant for defining local superiority. Augsburg tended to drift between the second and third tiers of German football but the appointment of the experienced Jos Luhukay was considered a masterstroke as they club was promoted into the top flight for the first time after finishing in second position behind Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga 2 2010-11 campaign.
Luhukay left Augsburg after securing a 14th place for Augsburg in the Bundesliga for the following season and the relatively unknown Markus Weinzierl was appointed as his replacement. Weinzierl is just 39 years old and after an undistinguished playing career in the lower leagues, he eventually became manager of SSV Jan Regensberg for whom he secured promotion into Bundesliga 2.
Weinzierl’s initial term with Augsburg was a disappointment as they eventually succeeded in their bid to avoid relegation by finishing 15th. The following season was a completely different story as the team finished eighth in the Bundesliga but more importantly, they were only one of two teams to defeat Bayern Munich during the 2013-14 campaign as they claimed victory by a 1-0 scoreline at the SGL Arena and so ending a 53 match unbeaten sequence for the champions.
It may have been a case that the early clinching of the league title had somewhat diluted the form of Bayern Munich that day but the home supporters would argue otherwise as they celebrated their moment of glory.
As the weekend approaches, the current champions will be wary of the threat posed by Augsburg and for Weinzierl, the game will be measure of how far his team has progressed in recent weeks after early season defeats by Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Schalke. With no real stars among the squad and success attributable to general teamwork, goals have been spread among the players during the present campaign with Dutch defender Paul Verhaegh and long serving midfielder Tobias Werner leading the scoring charts on five and four league goals respectively. Turkish forward Halil Altintop managed 11 league goals last season but has amassed just two this term although both have been netted in recent home victories.
The SGL Arena will be filled to its 30,000+ capacity on Saturday in front of an expectant home crowd but it will be a difficult task for Augsburg to contain a vastly more powerful Bayern Munich squad. Yet in derby games, anything is possible with local pride at stake and another 1-0 home win would be welcomed by Markus Weinzierl.