Per­fectly poised as Leipzig en­ters en­emy lines

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Berlin

Bay­ern Mu­nich faces an acid test of its sta­tus as Bundesliga leader in Wed­nes­day’s show­down when it hosts sec­ond­place RB Leipzig, which has noth­ing to lose.

The Bavar­ian gi­ant has won the Bundesliga ti­tle at a can­ter for four straight sea­sons, but Leipzig, which was founded in 2009, has torn up the form book in its first sea­son in Ger­many’s top flight.

Just like Bay­ern, it has won 11 of its 15 league games, with three wins and a sin­gle loss.

Both clubs have 36 points, but Mu­nich leads on goal dif­fer­ence.

A 1-0 loss to In­gol­stadt is the only blot on Leipzig’s record, hav­ing beaten the likes of Borus­sia Dort­mund, Bayer Lev­erkusen, Schalke and, on Satur­day, Hertha Berlin, in a 2-0 home win.

“Quick, com­pact and greedy — they are the best op­po­nent we have faced so far,” was Her- tha coach Pal Dar­dai’s ver­dict on Leipzig, which went a record 13 matches un­beaten at the start of its de­but Bundesliga sea­son.

The league breaks for win­ter af­ter this round of mid­week matches and the Al­lianz Arena show­down is the stand­out tie.

Hav­ing led for three weeks un­til early De­cem­ber, Leipzig knocked Bay­ern off the sum­mit for 24 hours af­ter its im­pres­sive vic­tory over Hertha be­fore Mu­nich’s 1-0 tri- umph at bot­tom club Darm­stadt put it back on top on Sun­day.

“We’re proud to have a game on Wed­nes­day against Bay­ern Mu­nich which will elec­trify the whole of Ger­many and will cer­tainly in­spire across the bor­ders,” said Leipzig’s Aus­trian coach Ralph Hasen­huettl.

Last month, Bay­ern pres­i­dent Uli Hoe­ness dubbed Leipzig its “sec­ond en­emy” in Ger­many along­side Dort­mund be­fore with­draw­ing the com­ment, but the Bavar­i­ans clearly feel threat­ened.

RB is one of the few Ger­man clubs boast­ing deep pock­ets like Bay­ern, with the fi­nan­cial weight of Aus­trian drinks gi­ant Red Bull be­hind it.

Its team has an av­er­age age of around 23 and there is lit­tle fear ahead of its his­toric first Bundesliga match against Bay­ern.

“We want to, we can, but we don’t have to,” said de­fender Ste­fan Il­sanker when asked about the pres­sure to win in Mu­nich.

Leipzig is set to be with­out in­jured de­fen­sive mid­fielder Naby Keita (thigh) and de­fender Mar­cel Hal­sten­berg (hip), but RB’s young guns are rel­ish­ing the test of their met­tle.

“The an­tic­i­pa­tion is huge. We’ ll put ev­ery­thing into it and I can hardly wait,” said de­fender Willi Or­ban, who scored against Hertha.

Cen­ter­backs Or­ban and Il­sanker will try to con­tain Bay­ern’s Thomas Muller and Robert Le­wandowski.

Leipzig’s top scorer Timo Werner, who has nine league goals this term, will face Mats Hum­mels. Ger­many in­ter­na­tional Hum­mels will be miss- ing his cen­ter­back part­ner Jerome Boateng, who needs shoul­der surgery.

Bay­ern coach Carlo Ancelotti says he knows his start­ing lineup, and it looks likely Ar­jen Robben and Franck Ribery will play on the wings.

While Leipzig im­pressed against Hertha, Bay­ern was lack­lus­ter in Sun­day’s 1-0 win at Darm­stadt which was set­tled by a su­perb Dou­glas Costa strike.

“We took three very im­por­tant points, with­out which it would have been dif­fi­cult on Wed­nes­day against RB Leipzig,” said Bay­ern goal­keeper Manuel Neuer.

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