Euro 2020 Special

Bundesliga: RB Leipzig …Contenders or Pretenders?

RB Leipzig aren’t the most popular club in the Bundesliga. In fact, they rival FC Bayern as the team which fans of the other 16 clubs most love to hate.

Antipathy towards Leipzig is borne out of the club’s image as a money-splashing corporation, whereas Bayern just annoy fans of rival teams by simply winning everything.

They are commonly derided as a ‘plastic club,’ but away from the rivalry and emotion, the latest Bundesliga league table tells us just how serious a contender Leipzig are, as the club holds third place and are third-top goalscorers in the league.

Before 32-year-old head coach Julian Nagelsmann took up the reins at the start of the season, he’d already spent three seasons at 1899 Hoffenheim as the league’s youngest manager. And now he leads an excellent side which has, in such a short space of time, attracted a passionate following to pack its 43,000-capacity stadium in the biggest city in Saxony.

This is a proper club.


The history

The club is only in its 11th season, founded by Red Bull GmbH in 2009 after the company bought the playing rights of SSV Markransaft. They started in the fifth tier of German football with a stated ambition of reaching the Bundesliga within eight years. Well, they did it with a year to spare as they were promoted to the elite league in May 2016 with a 2-0 victory over Karlsruher SC.

Remarkably, and while the rest of the Bundesliga stared on aghast, Leipzig were undefeated in their first 13 games in the top flight, a record for a newly promoted club, and topped the league after 11 matchdays.

Head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl resigned in 2018 to take up the position at Southampton in the Premier League and, after Ralf Rangnick guided Die Roten Bullen to third place in 2019, Nagelsmann took over at the start of this season.

They haven’t always been everyone’s favourite team but Leipzig are doing the right thing in the current crisis, as part of a group of four teams, along with FC Bayern, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, who are donating more than £18m to German rivals who are struggling.


The present

Leipzig Bull came into the enforced break in decent shape, yielding two draws and a 0-5 victory over Schalke in their last three Bundesliga 2020 results, and that after an impressive 3-0 home win against Spurs in the Champions League.

With 21 goals and seven assists from 24 starts, Timo Werner has become one of the best strikers in the league. Only FC Bayern’s goal machine Robert Lewandowski has more goals than Leipzig’s 24-year-old star.

Werner has time on his side and has plenty of energy; he’s completed 653 sprints so far this term. Swedish midfielder Emil Forsberg has been in good form too, scoring late goals in the recent win over Schalke and in the Champions League tie against Spurs.

Bundesliga's Marcel Sabitzer helps eliminate Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League
Marcel Sabitzer celebrates scoring RB Leipzig’s first goal against Tottenham Hotspur at Red Bull Arena

Christopher Nkunku is the third-ranking player for assists in the Bundesliga. The 22-year-old former Paris Saint Germain midfielder is sandwiched between BVB duo Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi, and he has enforcer Konrad Laimer alongside him. The Austrian battler has won 286 duels, the fifth-most in the Bundesliga while committing an eye-catching 50 fouls.

And in defence, they have the sought-after Dayot Upamecano, the £50m-rated French star who’s admired by Barcelona and Arsenal.

This is a good side, no doubt about that.

Borussia Dortmund have been Bayern’s biggest rivals in recent years and currently sit in second place in the Bundesliga, but Lucien Favre’s side knows it has a battle on its hands with the rapid emergence of the Red Bulls, and a team so blessed with talent and steel.

And, of course, Leipzig are already through to the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier competition, having comfortably seen off Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 on aggregate. Marcel Sabitzer was on target twice in the home leg as Leipzig were far too good for last season’s Champions League finalists.


The future

There’s plenty for Die Roten Bullen to get their teeth into when the games resume, with a Champions League quarter-final and a Bundesliga title — or at least second place — to chase.

There are discussions ongoing in Europe’s top leagues around the possibility of restarting football sometime in May, possibly behind closed doors. As and when that happens in Germany, the Bundesliga 2020 will likely have only RB and BVB as the only two sides with a genuine chance of stopping FC Bayern.

And that, my SBOTOP friends, makes Red Bull Leipzig a contender, and one which is here to stay.




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