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18.08.2023Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Lots of new faces at the Supercup winners

RB Leipzig have already bagged their first trophy. The 3-0 victory against Bayern Munich not only secured the Supercup but also gave RB a boost for the forthcoming Bundesliga campaign. The team from Saxony come to the BayArena on Saturday 19 August (kick-off: 15.30 CEST) with lots of new signings. The lowdown on our next opponents…
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Position

The man of the match in Munich was Dani Olmo with the first hat-trick of his career and, above all, his second goal stood out with its technical brilliance. "It was an incredible night from us as a team, we ran a lot, made lots of right decisions," said the matchwinner after the successful opening game. "We wanted this trophy. There's no better way to start the season than with a win in Munich – and that's just the beginning." That sounds like a declaration of intent from the Spain international..

RB CEO Max Eberl was convinced after the impressive performance: "A win like that can and should give us lots of confidence." That is particularly so as RB Leipzig could not be sure how the newly formed team would work as a unit after so many personnel changes in the squad again. Eberl revealed it was rather like flying blind ahead of the first competitive match of the season. Now everything is much clearer. After last season's third place finish and Pokal win, with the first round tie away to SV Wehen Wiesbaden postponed to 27 September because of the Supercup final, Leipzig appear to be right on track despite the departure of several key players and lots of new signings.

PersonNEl

Leipzig had to let go of four ace cards in the summer. Josko Gvardiol, one of the best Bundesliga central defenders, moved to the Premier League to join treble winners Manchester City. And Dominik Szoboszlai, one of the best providers in the league, and striker Christopher Nkunku, who was equal top scorer last term with Werder Bremen's Niclas Füllkrug, moved to England. Szoboszlai signed for Liverpool and Nkunku is now earning his money at Chelsea. Midfield enforcer Konrad Laimer was in the opposing line-up in Munich. Departures that hurt.

However, the club from Saxony appear to found excellent replacements on the transfer market. Lois Openda, the most expensive purchase in the club's history, is to fill the gap left by a Nkunku. The fast, 23-year-old Belgian scored 21 goals in France last season that played a big part in RC Lens finishing second behind Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1. Eberl described Openda as "the player we absolutely wanted up front." And the Slovenian Benjamin Sesko, who came from RB Salzburg, could also put pressure on Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen. Fabio Carvalho, on loan from Liverpool, will probably have to wait his turn.

There have also been several interesting new signings in midfield. Nicolas Seiwald could be an adequate replacement for Laimer with the Leipziger Volkszeitung describing him as a "ball winner of the first order." Like Sesko, Seiwald came from RB Salzburg where the 22-year-old developed into an Austria international and was voted player of the year back in his home country in the 2022/23 season. Seiwald replaced Kevin Kampl in the 3-0 win in Munich. Leipzig also brought in the highly promising attacking midfielder Xavi Simons on loan from PSG. The Dutchman was in the starting line-up in the Supercup final and he provided a lot of creative moments for the Red Balls. Christoph Baumgartner, a new signing from TSG Hoffenheim, missed part of the preseason due to a thigh problem.

RB recently signed the Frenchman Castello Lukeba from Lyon as the ninth new signing and successor to Josko Gvardiol. Max Eberl said of the U21 international that he is very advanced in his development despite only being 20: "He’s amongst the top defensive talents in Europe." Another newcomer to defence, the 18-year-old central defender El Chadaille Bitshiabu, will not be available in the coming months due to a torn ligament suffered in training. The most important man in the Leipzig defence remains Willi Orban who goes into his ninth season with RB as the new captain. Goalkeeper Peter Gulasci, his predecessor, is now the vice-captain. The 33-year-old only returned to full training this week after a long spell out injured with a torn cruciate. And Benjamin Henrichs, who progressed through all the youth teams at Bayer 04, is now a key player for Leipzig.

PERFORMERS

Pressing and transition play were again outstanding in the 3-0 win in Munich. Nevertheless, head coach Marco Rose wanted to dampen down expectations. "This match gives us confidence but we can do certain things better in the future." The basis for the first trophy is seen as disciplined defending. They cannot allow that to go missing in the Bundesliga opener in Leverkusen. Last season, the team that finished third with 41 goals conceded were the strongest side in defence behind Bayern and Union Berlin. In terms of the attack: Only the record champions and Borussia Dortmund scored more goals than RB Leipzig. The balance was right – that appears to be working again this season despite all the changes.

Problems

It remains to be seen if the many very young new signings – Christoph Baumgartner is the oldest of them at the age of 24 – quickly adapt to the Leipzig system of play in the Bundesliga. When RB Leipzig underwent a similar rebuild two years ago after the departures of Marcel Sabitzer, Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté, and had to cope with Julian Nagelsmann moving on, they were only eleventh after 14 games. Marco Rose now has the task of quickly shaping the newly formed squad into a unit.

Prediction

"It will be an exciting season," said stalwart Willi Orban. A lot of quality has to be added and a good result achieved from the start if possible. The group showed the level of their potential in Munich. RB Leipzig will again be playing for a Champions League finish in this Bundesliga campaign. Perhaps also for the league title.

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