‘Outsiders’ Leipzig pile pressure on leaders Bayern
RB Leipzig are playing on their role as underdogs to score some psychological points ahead of today’s crunch Bundesliga clash against Bayern Munich.
“If we win, it would be a fairly big surprise. Anything other than a Bayern win would be a disappointment from a Munich point of view,” Ralf Rangnick, Leipzig’s sports director, told SID, an AFP subsidiary, yesterday.
“For us, this is a bonus game, which we go into as outsiders. “We want to build on our good performances and perhaps get a scoop.” Bayern host Leipzig at the Allianz Arena with the sides neck and neck on 36 points with the champions topping the table on goal difference.
Leipzig, only founded in 2009, had a stellar 2016, gaining second division promotion in May and going a record 13matches unbeaten at the start of their first season in Germany’s top flight.
“From a sporting perspective, it was a dream year,” said Rangnick. “Everyone in Germany, and also us in Leipzig, are of course surprised by this fantastic first half of the season.”
Leipzig’s success has come with a squad, with an average of 23, who were mostly unheard of before this season. They have nothing to lose in the club’s first league match against star-studded Bayern, which has 15 internationals in their squad and seven World Cup winners from Spain and Germany.
“Any team which is forced onto the defensive by Bayern don’t have a chance,” said Rangnick.
“Our style of play is characterised by a high level of willingness to run, aggression and passion.
“But we have never played against a team whose individual players have such quality.”
Bayern have a habit of signing up top talent from their rivals and club president Uli Hoeness has already suggested Leipzig’s coach Ralph Hassenhuettl could be a future Munich manager, to follow on from Spain’s Pep Guardiola and current incumbent Carlo Ancelotti from Italy.
“If we should ever look for a (native) German-speaking coach, he certainly is one of the three candidates to think about,” Bayern president Uli Hoeness told Bild.
“It’s going to be a while before Bayern get a German coach,” Austrian-born Hassenhuettl observed drily.
On average, Leipzig have run four kilometres (2.5miles) more than their opponents per league game and Hassenhuettl intends to make Bayern run for their lives.
“We want to make sure that Bayern have to do something and also that they have to cover 110 kilometres,” he said, referring to the average distance covered in a Bundesliga game.
Rangnick acknowledges that while prestige and three points are at stake, the showdown will have little bearing on who lifts the title next May.
The 58-year-old has been here before. He was Hoffenheim coach in 2008/09 when the club were top midway through their first Bundesliga season, only to eventually finish seventh.
“If the example of Hoffenheim tells us something, it’s that the title ‘Autumn champions’ (the name given to the table leaders in December) is worth practically nothing,” said Rangnick.
He also doubts Leipzig will make any new signings in the January transfer window. “There is no reason to change anything,” he said. “From our side, it is not planned that we’ll sign any new players in the winter break.” — AFP