Dortmund travel east this weekend to face Red Bull’s product, Rasenballsport Leipzig, in their first ever Bundesliga home match. In match day one, our hosts Leipzig drew their inaugural Bundesliga match away to the other “plastic” team in the league, Hoffenheim, by a 2-2 scoreline, while an unimpressive Dortmund beat Mainz 2-1.
As most know, Leipzig aren’t your typical newly promoted side. Founded in 2009, most of the club members and all seven of its founding fathers are Red Bull employees. It is impossible for traditional “fans” to gain membership unless they agree to the pay the 800 Euro per season membership fee on top of the 100 Euro application fee, and even then they can still be reject for no reason. Red Bull gets away with this because the company does not own the club, or even invest in the club, its employees simply built it for marketing purposes. The DFL’s notable “50+1 rule” does not come into effect, making it hard for anyone with authority to put a stop to Red Bull.
The club started out in the 5th tier of German football, the Oberliga, and climbed their way through the ranks quite quickly under the direction of former Schalke manager Ralf Rangnick. Leipzig spent all of two seasons in the German second division, where they broke the 2. Liga transfer record in the summer of 2015 with the purchase of Davie Selke from Werden Bremen for 8 million Euros. Last season, Leipzig achieved their goal of promotion, finishing second by a comfortable margin.
This season, Leipzig look like a lock to finish top eight, especially after splashing more than 45 million Euros in transfer fees this summer. They hired Ralph Hasenhüttl after an impressive season managing Ingolstadt, while Ralf Rangnick moved up to sporting director. Leipzig’s three big buys were Stuttgart striker Timo Werner, Nottingham Forest winger Oliver Burke, and their sister team RB Salzburg’s midfielder Naby Keita. They also added Leverkusen’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos on loan. Only Werner featured in their 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim, but Dortmund could be in line to see a few more of Leipzig’s shiny new toys. Along with solidified starters Marcel Sabitzer and captain Dominik Kaiser, there will be lots of competition for places in this Leipzig team.
Against Hoffenheim, Leipzig proved to be a handful. They mustered 23 shots in total, and if it weren’t for a mistake that led to a goal by center back Willi Orban late in the game, Leipzig could have taken all three points. Leipzig boasted the best defense statistically in the 2. Liga last season, only conceding 32 goals in 34 games. With Lukas Klostermann fit again after participating in the Olympics, Leipzig should have their first choice back line on display this Saturday, which could easily cause Dortmund problems if they display the same lack of creativity as they did against Mainz.
On the black and yellow side of things, Thomas Tuchel seems to have nearly all of his pieces in play for the first time this season, with the except of Marco Reus. Mario Götze started twice for the DFB during the international break, confirming his fitness, while Julian Weigl featured for the DFB as well and has returned to full team training in Dortmund. Crucial for Dortmund will be getting both of these players back, as Weigl is one of few players who has the ability to set the tone for the whole team. Against Mainz, Castro and Kagawa showed that there’s an Ilkay Gündogan-sized hole in the midfield, and it’s especially apparent when Marc Bartra is the only one playing through the lines.
Something worth watching for is Sebastian Rode’s role if he starts with Julian Weigl. The new boy has been much more impressive in preseason and in the three competitive games than Gonzalo Castro has, and his performances certainly warrant a start, regardless of Weigl. Dortmund lacked a specific Gündogan-impetus against Mainz, and the midfield pairing of Julian Weigl and Sebastian Rode just might be the cure. With Weigl, Rode, and Mario Götze all yet to play a competitive game together, it’s tough to decipher Tuchel’s exact plans with the trio, these three will play large parts in Dortmund’s ability to break down defenses.
Leipzig won’t be the easiest team for Dortmund to work out their creativity problems against, and it would not be surprising in the least bit if RB manage to make their inaugural home match a joyful one for them. Dortmund have a few defense kinks that they still haven’t work out of their system over the past two seasons, as Yoshinori Muto’s late goal two weeks ago proved. Even if Dortmund take a lead against Leipzig, it will be a tall task to maintain it. Despite their defensive strengths from last year, Leipzig still like to play a high-risk attacking style that’s now led by Timo Werner, who could be a perfect fit in their system.
Dortmund will be without the support of many fans in this game against Leipzig, as there is a large scale boycott from the Ultras groups and supporters in general in protest of RB Leipzig controversial foundation. This follows up Hoffenheim’s protest two weeks ago, and there will surely be more to come as Leipzig face the rest of the league. On the football side of things, defeating Leipzig at home this season is something that not very many teams will probably be able to do. Dortmund will have to show a lot more than they did against Mainz, but with the return of Julian Weigl and other key players, anything other than three points would be slightly disappointing. After a two-week break from club football, it finally feels like the season is properly starting with Champions League football right around the corner as well.
Listen to our show for a preview of the match in Podcast format!