Manuel Veth –
Leipzig vs Bayern Munich – Saturday, September 14, 17:30BST/18:30CEST – Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany
It is the first true Topspiel of the Bundesliga season. On Saturday afternoon Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig will host record champions Bayern Munich. It is a game with some significant history as Bayern defeated RB Leipzig in the DFB Pokal final in May to win their 19th DFB Pokal.
For RB Leipzig, Bayern, in particular, have been a bit of a bogey team. Although the Red Bulls took all three points from Bayern on matchday 27 of the 2017/18 season, when it mattered, it has usually been the Rekordmeister that has come out on top. In fact, in several matchups, Leipzig have been the better team, but it was Bayern that overcame adversity to take the win. The DFB Pokal final is a good example, in that particular game, it was only thanks to Manuel Neuer’s heroics that Bayern triumphed in the end.
After a start with three wins, however, the Leipzig camp is somewhat optimistic that the time has come to beat Bayern in a key match. “We always want points – even against the top teams in the Bundesliga like Bayern Munich,” head coach Julian Nagelsmann said this week. “We want to get at the opposition and get the scoreboard moving in the right direction!”
“Even if you take the lead against Bayern, it doesn’t mean you will win,” Nagelsmann added. “You have to work hard for the full 90 minutes against Bayern. We have respect for every opposition.”
A former 1860 Munich youth product it is the first time that Nagelsmann heads into a matchday as the league leader. It is a position that he wants to defend even against the Bundesliga’s biggest club. Said Nagelsmann: “We have to be brave and believe that we can win! We are on a good run at the moment, and we want to continue that on Saturday.”
After dropping points on matchday 1 and shaky starts against Schalke and Mainz, Bayern are aware that this could be a season-defining game for the club. “Of course it is an important game for us,” Bayern head coach Niko Kovač said this week. “We know what to expect there. we are motivated and prepared. They got a top coach with Julian Nagelsmann. We take them very seriously and want to be top of the table afterward. It will be a great game.”
One of the main questions for the Bayern head coach will be his tactical selection. The 47-year-old Croatian has utilised both the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation this season. Both setups are possible, and it is likely that Joshua Kimmich will start once again in midfield. Whether Kimmich will, however, anchor a 4-2-3-1 formation or 4-3-3 formation will depend on the availability of Brazilian national team player Philippe Coutinho, who played Tuesday against Peru in Los Angeles.
“We have to wait for Philippe to come back and then we’ll talk to him about how he feels, of course, such a journey is very exhausting,” Kovač said. “But I cannot and do not want to reveal the lineup.” Should Coutinho be available Bayern will likely start with a 4-3-3 formation,, the alternative is a 4-2-3-1 with Thomas Müller in the number 10 role.
Either way, Nagelsmann knows what is coming. The same, however, cannot be said for Kovač. Leipzig are heading into the game with perhaps the most in-depth squad in the league, which allows Nagelsmann to come up with a tactical surprise or two, which means that the Red Bulls, and not Bayern, will be the favourites to take all three points on Saturday.
Leipzig vs Bayern Munich – Players to look out for:
Timo Werner #11 – RB Leipzig
“Individual quality can be the deciding factor in matches like this,” Nagelsmann said this week. One of the players that has that individual quality is striker Timo Werner. The 23-year-old forward started the season with five goals in three Bundesliga games. “We want Timo Werner to be in top condition. He has been impressive in training,” Nagelsmann said. That is bad news for all Bayern fans hoping that Werner would perhaps carry his national team form into the Topspiel on Saturday. The forward struggled against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland during the international break but now back at the club at a different role will certainly want to show Bayern that they were wrong for not pursuing him more decisively this summer.
Manuel Neuer #1 – Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer was the source of frustration for RB Leipzig at the DFB Pokal final. The German national team keeper produced several big saves to keep the Red Bulls off the scoresheet. For Neuer, it was also the first step of a resurgence that has slowly but surely seen the keeper return to the goalkeeper elite. Neuer was excellent in the last four games for Germany and also was able to showcase his abilities for Bayern. On Saturday he will be a key player for Bayern as the not always stable defence is facing one of the most dangerous attacks in German football.
Leipzig vs Bayern Munich – Match Stats
- In their last 30 league games, Bayern failed to score only once, in their 0-0 draw against RB Leipzig on matchday 33.
- RB Leipzig head coach coached both Niklas Süle and Serge Gnabry at Hoffenheim.
- Gnabry managed to score ten goals under Nagelsmann, three of them against RB Leipzig.
- Leipzig’s record at home against Bayern: W1 D1 L1.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Leipzig vs Bayern Munich – 2-1
Leipzig vs Bayern Munich – Lineups
Gulacsi – Mukiele, Konaté, Orban – Klostermann, Demme, Halstenberg – Sabitzer, Forsberg – Poulsen, Werner
Head Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
Neuer – Pavard, Süle, Hernández, Alaba – Coutinho, Kimmich, Thiago – Gnabry, Lewandowski, Coman
Head Coach: Niko Kovač
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently splits his time between Victoria, BC, and Munich, Germany. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.