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9.11.2018Bundesliga

Our next opponents: RB discover new qualities

Clash of the Europa League participants: After both playing on the European stage on Thursday night, RB Leipzig and Bayer 04 meet in the Bundesliga on Sunday afternoon (11 November, 15.30 CET). The Werkself face an incredibly difficult away game as the team from Saxony are currently displaying previously unknown qualities. The lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

The Bundesliga opener was a complete flop for RB Leipzig. The Red Bulls left Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park with their tails between their legs following a 4-1 defeat. That was back in August – at the same time the last defeat for Leipzig in the Bundesliga. The hammering at BVB was followed by a run of nine games undefeated with the most recent win an impressive 3-0 victory against a previously outstanding Hertha side. No less notable: Leipzig, standing out through their attacking strength rather than their defensive stability since promotion to the Bundesliga in 2016, have only conceded five goals in nine games since the Dortmund match. The team coached by Ralf Rangnick (pictured above) have not conceded in the last four games. The logical and yet somewhat surprising consequence given the attacking approach: With only nine goals conceded,  RB currently have the best defence in the Bundesliga. Thanks to the defensive qualities, Leipzig are in the leading group in Germany's top flight and currently fourth in the table ahead of the game against the Werkself. In the DFB Cup, RB knocked out the impressive Hoffenheim but in the Europa League  team suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Celtic on Thursday night.

personnel

After the match in Glasgow it appears probable that coach Rangnick will rotate in a number of positions. His team had to go through the qualifying round in the Europa League, which means they have played 22 competitive games this season. Of course, the same eleven players are not on the pitch every time. That also is part of the Leipzig philosophy as, alongside established players like Willi Orban, the former Leverkusen player Kevin Kampl and Germany international Timo Werner, the squad of the club from Saxony includes many highly talented youngsters who Rangnick, this season both coach and sporting director, also wants to give  sufficient  playing time to. In the game in Berlin, the youngsters Marcelo Sarrachi (20), Ibrahima Konaté (19) and Nordi Mukiele (21) played alongside Orban in the back four – and once again kept a clean sheet. Up front, the 19-year-old Brazilian Matheus Cunha made his first start in the Bundesliga. The new signing from FC Sion promptly repaid that vote of confidence with his first goal in Germany's top flight. It is possible that Cunha will also play against the Werkself because his fellow strikers Timo Werner and Jean-Kevin Augustin had slight knocks going into the Europa League game.

problems

In spite of the marathon of competitive matches, Leipzig have not suffered serious injuries to date. The only player currently unavailable to Rangnick is badly missed. Emil Forsberg has struggled with a groin injury for several weeks. Rangnick recently said it was unlikely that the Swede would play against the Werkself with the Leipzig number 10  probably only rejoining full training in the international break. The absence of Forsberg represents the loss of probably  the most creative player in the RB attack who can decide games  on his own. In the first two Bundesliga games that the 27-year-old missed due to his groin injury RB were only able to draw 0-0 and did not look anywhere near as dynamic as usual.

potential

The good scouting set-up and the financial circumstances allow the club to keep on signing highly talented players like Keita, Augustin and recently Saracchi. The further development and possibly – as in the case of Keita – the resale of these players allow Leipzig to compete at the highest level over the long term. At the latest by the time Julian Nagelsmann takes over the team as one of the most sought-after young coaches in Europe, RB will look to win their first title in the club's history.

prediction

In contrast to recent seasons, the defence has become more solid and the return of Forsberg should revive the attack: The prospects are certainly rosy at RB. The only question mark: If the team are actually in three competitions in the spring, then Leipzig will depend on many young players appearing regularly and also avoiding major injury problems. If these conditions are fulfilled then the Saxony club should meet the requirements for Julian Nagelsmann to be able to start his new job with his team in the Champions League.

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