Borussia Dortmund will go up against RB Leipzig on Saturday. We interviewed Leipzig expert Matthias Kießling from Rotebrauseblogger.de about the guests.
RB Leipzig are comfortably in second place and are one of the most consistent teams in the Bundesliga. What is their advantage over 16 other teams in the league at the moment?
They have tranquillity, they don’t have pressure. They are young and hungry. They have a clear strategy. They have talent. They find perfect conditions. They are a well-oiled machine, after playing together in mostly the same group the previous season. And they have a superb coach — it’s mixture of all of the above. But in general, it’s impossible to explain. Especially the maturity with which they’ve won their games is impressive and rather untypical for such a young team, where inconsistencies are to be expected.
Leipzig are 11 points ahead of Borussia Dortmund and brimming with confidence after beating Hoffenheim – would you consider them favourites on Saturday evening?
No. Dortmund still have the greater potential than Leipzig. But considering the league table, it would be inappropriate to act as if RB Leipzig were the absolute underdog. Though, due to the absentees, they find themselves in that role to some extent. Anything other than a Dortmund win would be surprising with Leipzig’s current personnel situation.
Ralph Hasenhüttl has to make do without Emil Forsberg, Timo Werner, Diego Demme and Marcel Sabitzer. How do you think Leipzig will line up and might there be a change of strategy due to the absences?
If this were the 90s and the match was Dortmund against VfB Leipzig, then I would say: park the bus and hope for a lucky break while miraculously keeping a clean sheet. But we’re talking about the Hasenhüttl/Rangnick Leipzig. So alternations in the approach are not to be expected. They will still aggressively hunt the ball and look for quick transitions after turnovers.
As things stand, the team basically picks itself. Yussuf Poulsen and Davie Selke are the only two remaining strikers since Oliver Burke is not fit enough for a start after his illness. Naby Keita and Dominik Kaiser are the only players that can play in the “No. 10” position. It remains to be seen who will replace Diego Demme in defensive midfield next to Stefan Ilsanker. Rani Khedira would be the like-for-like replacement, but he is yet to feature in the starting lineup. It would also be possible that Bernardo moves to defensive midfield and Benno Schmitz takes the right-back spot next to Willi Orban, Marvin Compper and Marcel Halstenberg. Peter Gulacsi will obviously remain in goal. Everything is pending on whether there will be another victim of the flu.
On the bench, there will be a funny collection of youth players who didn’t expect to sit there anytime soon.
Do you see any potential weaknesses of Leipzig that Dortmund could exploit on Saturday?
The biggest weakness is that the entire attack is practically missing. Three of the four most dangerous players are absent. Additionally, there is a lot of counter-pressing quality missing with Werner, Sabitzer and Demme. There could be more open space in central midfield than usual, also because Selke is probably not as good at closing passing lanes as Werner or Sabitzer are.
Hence there could be an advantage for Dortmund in the middle of the pitch, but since Dortmund’s central midfielders have been a cause for concern for Thomas Tuchel, it will be interesting to see if BVB can actually exploit that.
Without having to deal with the strain of the UEFA Champions League and DFB Pokal, do you think Leipzig can keep the title race open until the very end of the campaign and maybe even win it or is that too far-fetched?
I don’t believe in winning the title. That is extremely unlikely, as it would require an inhuman level of consistency. RB is currently playing the best season of a second-placed team since the introduction of the three-point rule in 1995. Forty-two points after 18 matches are a historic record but still only good enough for second place. I don’t think Leipzig can keep up their point average until the end of the season, and I also don’t see Bayern having another rough patch.
So silverware is out of the equation, unlike the qualification for the Champions League. Someone once said that you have to beat Bayern in the direct duels if you want to win the league. Since the first match was a very straightforward win for Munich, there should be no doubt about the balance of power.
Score prediction: Dortmund 3 – 1 Leipzig
Thanks agian to Matthias Kießling. You can follow him on Twitter @Rotebrauseblog