Perfectly poised as Leipzig enters enemy lines
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.