RB Leipzig are like the horse that surges up on the outside in a race to scare the leading riders before having to settle for an each-way finish. The Leipzig horse that resembled a donkey back at the end of March/ beginning of April, is now more of a thoroughbred and with Bayern still to play this season, die Roten Bullen could still have a major say in the title race as well as sealing Champions League football next season.
The 7-0 loss to Manchester City in the Champions League round of 16 clash at the Etihad was a real punch to the stomach for Leipzig and in their subsequent Bundesliga outings they were clearly still reeling from the blow. A 1-0 away loss at Bochum was followed by being given a lesson at home by Mainz in a 3-0 defeat.
Since then however they have won six out of their last seven matches and their one defeat came against Bayer Leverkusen in a match which saw them on a par with the Werkself apart from the two goals conceded. They have reached a second successive Pokal final and have slowly crept into the Bundesliga top four when for so long it looked like a Champions League place would allude them this season.
Their display against Freiburg in the Pokal semi-final was breath-taking and not many teams go to the Europa Park and so comprehensively beat Christian Streich’s team with a display of ruthless attacking football that was witnessed. They had earlier beaten an in-form Dortmund to reach the semi.
That win in the Black Forest was repeated on Saturday, although they had to work a lot harder to achieve the three points that saw them move to third in the table.
Marco Rose’s 4-2-2-2 formation has benefited massively from the return from injury of both Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku. Spaniard Olmo, who has had both a knee ligament and muscle fibre injuries this season, has returned and instantly shown his quality. He scored one and provided three assists in the 5-1 win over Freiburg, With just one year left on his current contract, the club are desperate to hold onto their creative spark.
Nkunku, who has also been out this season with knee, wrist and muscle injuries has also added another level to the Leipzig attack, combing with Timo Werner. Add in the classy Dominik Szoboszlai, an in-form Kevin Kampl, Amadou Haidara and Konrad Laimer and the Saxon side are oozing quality in midfield/ attack and clicking into top gear at the right stage of the season. The defence marshalled by Willi Orban and Josko Gvardiol remains largely non-porous.
Leipzig are one of the form teams as the season enters it’s crucial phase and in two weeks they travel to the Allianz Arena to face title-chasing Bayern. The Bavarians might still be top of the league by then, but they will still involved in a titanic tussle with Borussia Dortmund. The Rekordmeister have stuttered to their last two wins (Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen) and are certainly not looking like the powerhouse we are used to.
Their displays are disjointed and their attack is mis-firing on the few chances they are managing to create. Could this be the ideal time for Leipzig to play Thomas Tuchel’s side? On current form, you’d have to say a definite ‘yes’.
A win or even a draw at the Allianz Arena could hand the initiative to Borussia Dortmund in the title race and with Leipzig also desperate for the points to fend off the Union Berlin and Freiburg in the battle for top four, they will certainly be fired-up.