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2020/2021 Bundesliga Preview | RB Leipzig


Nickname

Die Roten Bullen

Manager

Julian Nagelsmann

Stadium

Red Bull Arena

Bundesliga 2019/20 finish

3rd

Finishing third in the prolonged 2019/20 Bundesliga campaign, RB Leipzig will again be looking to qualify for the Champions League next season and secure another top four domestic finish.

It will prove a much more difficult task this season however with the key departure of star forward Timo Werner to Chelsea during the summer transfer window, the loss of his goals could have a detrimental effect on Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig outfit. Werner was also one of the Bundesliga’s hardest workers off the ball which Leipzig will need to address with his replacement. Nagelsmann will also have to replace the contributions of departing forward Patrik Schick who has decided to move to Bayer Leverkusen permanently rather than return to the Red Bull Arena for another loan spell.

Leipzig will be buoyed by their summer arrivals though. Striker Hee-chan Hwang joins from RB Salzburg after scoring 11 times and assisting 12 times last season in the Austrian Bundesliga whilst full-back Benjamin Henrichs joins from Monaco on loan. They’ll also welcome back Angelino at left-back on loan and young centre back Ibrahima Konate following his injury problems last term, his long-awaited return will feel like a new signing in itself.

Likely starting XI

Key man

Marcel Sabitzer – Midfield

With 16 goals and 11 assists in 44 matches across all competitions last season, Austrian midfielder and Marcel Sabitzer remains their key man for next season. Now the Leipzig captain, Sabitzer is one of Europe’s most creative midfielders and his versatility can see him play in central midfield, in attacking midfield or on either wing if needed.

Normally deployed as the ‘deep-lying playmaker’ in central midfielder, Sabitzer has an immense range of passing and his vision can unlock even the strongest opposition defences. Alongside Konrad Laimer in the midfield two, the pair operate as one of the strongest midfields in Europe. Whilst Laimer plays the more defensive role, Sabitzer is allowed free roam from deep by manager Julian Nagelsmann to create opportunities for his strike force. In fact, on average across the Bundesliga and Champions League last season, Sabitzer created on average 3.32 chances per 90.

His dynamism will once again be one of the most important factors in RB Leipzig’s 2020/21 Bundesliga season.

Signing to watch

Angelino – Defence

Whilst the signings of striker Hee-chan Hwang and full-back Benjamin Henrichs are impressive and important, the return of left-back Angelino on loan from Manchester City (with an obligation to buy next summer) is incredibly key to Leipzig’s success next term.

Last season, Angelino was key to his side’s success in finishing third in the Bundesliga and reaching the Champions League semi-finals for the first time. His natural width out on the left is one of the most important features in the way that Leipzig play under manager Nagelsmann. Constantly flying up and down that left flank, Angelino doesn’t only defend his side’s back-line but he offers so much creativity moving forwards, highlighted with his two assists through 13 Bundesliga matches last term. His pace often gives Leipzig an out ball to counter-attack opposing sides whilst the 23-year-old also has the intelligence to know how to read the match and know when to attack or defend.

Strengths

Defensive stability

Conceding just 37 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches last season, Leipzig had the second-best defence in Germany behind champions Bayern Munich.

This season they’ll welcome back 21-year old Ibrahima Konate after the centre back suffered an injury hit campaign last time out. Regarded as one of the best young defenders in Europe, Konate will further enforce Leipzig’s back line alongside fellow compatriot Dayot Upamecano. There’s also a lot of depth at centre back with Willi Orban, Lukas Klostermann, Marcel Halstenburg and Nordi Mukiele all comfortable with playing in that position. The club’s strong and dependable back line was a main factor as to why the outfit from Saxony advanced all the way to the Champions League semi-finals last term before losing out to French champions PSG.

With the young defenders in Upamecano, Konate and Mukiele all a year older next term and a year more experienced, Leipzig will once again prove hard to breakdown in the Bundesliga.

Weaknesses

A possible lack of goals

It goes without saying that when you lose the fourth top goal scorer in Europe then you’ll struggle to replace his goals the next season and that’s exactly where Leipzig find themselves after the departure of Timo Werner to Premier League outfit Chelsea this summer. Couple that with the departure of loan starlet Patrik Schick, who had 10 goals and 3 assists last season, and there’s already 44 less goals and 16 less assists in Leipzig’s side coming into the 2020-21 Bundesliga campaign.

Despite the permanent singing of 24-year-old Hee-chan Hwang to try and remedy the situation, who had 16 goals and 22 assists for Salzburg last season across all competitions, Nagelsmann still has a much weaker strike force than at this time last year. The still-young German manager will be turning to attacking midfielders Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku this season to add more goals to their respective games and to help share the offensively workload with new signing Hwang.

Verdict

If you’re a betting man who loves a longshot, you might fancy placing RB Leipzig outside of the top four in the Bundesliga this season but that would be a risk. Granted, the loss of talesman Timo Werner is huge but even so, Nagelsmann and the board at the Red Bull Arena have still invested in some shrewd moves that make Leipzig even stronger on the depth charts this season.

The distraction of the Champions League this time around may see a dip in domestic form though and if injuries stack up, Leipzig may struggle to keep pace with the stronger squads of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund further up the table. A top four finish will again be the aim for Leipzig this season and a deep run in the DFB-Pokal would be ideal as the club have consistently struggled in the German Cup since their meteoric rise to the top began bar a runners-up spot in 2018-19.

Nathan Evans

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