It may have seemed like an eternity, but finally, the Bundesliga is back! Matchday 16 begins on Friday with possibly the tie of the round as RB Leipzig host current league leaders Bayern Munich.
The fixture is building up quite the rivalry. This is partially down to Julian Nagelsmann, Konrad Laimer, who is set to sign for Bayern from Leipzig, and a duel between two of the best young defenders in the world, Dayot Upamecano and Josko Gvardiol.
Leipzig sit 3rd in the Bundesliga but a win on Friday night will put that just three points behind leaders Bayern. After a slow start to the campaign, the Saxons are showing the same threat as they did at the tail-end of the 2021/21 campaign. With new head coach and Leipzig native Marco Rose in charge, anything seems possible right now.
Since Rose has taken charge of the Saxons, he has guided them up the table, made the last 16 of the DFB Pokal, beat Real Madrid in the Champions League and secured a knockout match against Manchester City.
It’s key to highlight that although Leipzig haven’t been at the races for some parts of the season, they are still in every cup competition and in a healthy league position. If they can hit the ground running on Friday evening, you wouldn’t bet against some sort of silverware making its way to Leipzig this season.
Bayern ended 2022 strong and are currently on a 13-game unbeaten run ahead of their trip to the Red Bull Arena. Although they may not have experienced quite the same low’s Leipzig did early in the season, Naglesmann’s men have to overcome some tricky obstacles.
After drawing three Bundesliga games on the bounce and then losing to Bavarian neighbours Augsburg, alarm bells were ringing. However, with the introduction of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting as a central striker, Bayern have once again found their rhythm and now sit first where they believe they always belong.
At the World Cup, Bayern were dealt a series of injuries to the likes of Sadio Mané, Noussair Mazraoui, and Lucas Hernandez. To add even more salt to the wounds, club captain and trusted goalkeeper Manuel Neuer broke his leg shortly after Germany’s World Cup exit on a skiing holiday. Just 24 hours before this match, Bayern announced the signing of Yann Sommer from Borussia Monchengladbach for €8m plus €1.5m in bonuses. It has also been reported that the Swiss international may travel with the squad to Leipzig for the match.
Leipzig and Bayern have played just 15 times in their history. Only once have the Saxons gotten the better of the giants from Bavaria. But perhaps that’s about to change. With injuries to key players and the absence of leader Neuer in between the sticks, Bayern might just be there for the taking. Leipzig will still have to play at their full potential, but if they can dominate the ball and get the home crowd on their sides, Bayern might just become unstuck once again this season. The top of the league already looks a lot tighter than it has in previous seasons. If Leipzig can get all three points on Friday evening, we’re going to be in for a cracking end to the Bundesliga season.
GGFN | Jamie Allen