Can unpredictable RB Leipzig shock Bayern Munich at home?
Background Photo: Michal Osmenda, CC by 2.0
There was a time RB Leipzig dreaded Bayern Munich. The gulf in class, pedigree and affluence sent jitters. The Red Bulls gladly donated its best prospects to the Bavarian project. Not anymore, however. On Wednesday, Die Bullen visit Allianz Arena with a mission to depose the host in the third position.
Bayern and Leipzig haven't had the best of Bundesliga campaigns. Still undefeated, Borussia Dortmund is top with 41 points. Followed by North Rhine-Westphalia namesake Gladbach. Bayern and Leipzig lag behind with 32 and 28 respectively. Both sides, however, are clawing back up the Bundesliga log after a false start.
This wasn't envisaged, especially with Die Roten. The Bundesliga had become something of a birthright. Half-sister Juventus, whom they share the same home ground name, carried the torch in Italy. The last six editions have landed in Munich. Even Jupp Heynckes strolled in and out of retirement to continue that streak.
Leipzig was formed around the same time the Bavarians began this recent coup. The energized club began in Deutschland's fifth tie dungeon. Multiple promotions in a short span edged closer to Die Roten. In the 2015/16 season, they finally landed in the top division - an opportunity to rub shoulders with the elite. They brushed it without fear.
Leipzig debuted as though it was their final. They went unbeaten in 13 matches - a record for a club at the start of a first Bundesliga season. But when they came up against the Bavarians, Ralph Hasenhuettl’s youthful team had no answers. Bayern brushed off the challenge with a 3-0 home win that ensured they went into the winter break top of the tree.
Both clubs have embarked on a different trajectory since then. While Bayern seemingly maintained that hegemony, the Bulls have somewhat regressed. After finishing second in that debut season, they slumped to seventh. The once ambitious side turned to a spouse for potential suitors.
When it comes to Bayern, there are extra motivations for RBL, though. It is treated like a cup final or local derby. The visitors will be encouraged by their recent feats. Leipzig has lost just once in the last three meetings. The most recent ended in their favour.
Leipzig has impressed in patches. Against Mainz at the weekend, Ralf Rangnick’s men struck four times. Yussuf Poulsen and Timo Werner took turns at the visitors. It was the latter's fifth brace of the Bundesliga season. Before that, they were torn apart by Freiburg and Wolfsburg.
Leipzig’s bane lies on the road. The Saxony-based side has picked up just two victories – Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim away from home. At the Allianz Arena where Bayern have lost just once against Gladbach, further dread awaits. However, with Freiburg, Augsburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf all taking a share from the spoils, Leipzig could dream.
Rangnick will bank on his attacking duo to do the damage. Werner and his cohort Paulsen have contributed 24 goals – the most by any front two in Bundesliga. Without the pair, the entire Bulls have garnered four strikes.
Bayern gave their fans a glimpse of hope against Hannover. Like Dortmund, they struck four goals, showing creativity and lots of counter-pressing over 90 minutes. They have already lost only one game fewer than they did in the entirety of last season and drawn the same amount. There remains no room for further slip-ups. Otherwise, Niko Kovac may spend the Christmas in Croatia.
Verdict: Bayern's game and confidence are improving. The transition hasn't been smooth but things are gradually taking shape. Kovac still possesses the strongest squad in the country. Coupled with Leipzig's horrible away form, it promises to be a good day for Die Roten.