For the first time since Round 5 last season, there is a club other than Bayern Munich sitting on top of the Bundesliga table. And interestingly enough, that team is not Dortmund, who have shared the last seven league titles between themselves and the Bavarians. Neither is it Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen or Monchengladbach- it is infact newly promoted RB Lepizig, who are playing their maiden season in the German top flight
With Dortmund winning Der Klassiker and Leipzig coming from behind to beat Leverkusen at the Bay Arena, the new boys now have a three point lead at the top of the table and their forthcoming clash against Bayern on December 21 is shaping out to be a very tasty one indeed.
The twin results have breathed new life into the Bundesliga, which is no longer a one horse race any more. Bayern, who have won the last four BuLi titles on offer have a fight on their hands- they are three behind Leipzig and as many as five clubs- Dortmund, Koln, Hoffenheim, Hertha and Eintracht Frankfurt, are just three points behind Carlo Ancelotti’s side. Many of these teams do not have European football as distractions and that could work in their favour, just as it did for Leicester last year in the Premier League.
Leipzig take the lead on MD 11 after beating Leverkusen 3:2
Seven years ago, Leipzig were in the fifth division before being taken over Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. Unlike the New York Red Bulls or Red Bull Salzburg, Mateschitz couldn’t add the Red Bull name to the club owing to German sponsorship regulations. He however found a way around it- the RB in their name RB Leipzig actually stands for RasenBallsport.
It is for reasons like this and more that Leipzig are detested by other club’s fans, who call them Red Bull’s “pet project”, but there is no doubting the fact that the East German side have enjoyed a meteoric rise in the last few years.
Leipzig have made incredible progress since their formation in 2009, rising through the lower leagues of German football before reaching the 3 Liga in the 2013/14 campaign. Their stay in the third tier lasted just one season with an immediate promotion to the second division, with a second-place finish.
It took a further two seasons for Die Bullen to reach the Bundesliga, recording a fifth-place finish in the first campaign before earning their spot in the big time by placing second again. The club’s owners invested heavily for their first season in the top flight, breaking their transfer record twice with the signings of Timo Werner from Stuttgart and Oliver Burke from Nottingham Forest.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men have made an unbeaten start to the campaign, winning eight out of their 11 games so far, putting themselves in a strong position to finish in at least the Champions League places. As a result, Leipzig are backed in the latest Bundesliga betting odds at 18/1 to win their first crown, although they will need to maintain their excellence in the remaining 23 matches of the campaign to end Bayern’s stranglehold of the German top flight.
Both players have hit the ground running in the Bundesliga, with Werner scoring five goals in his 11 appearances thus far, while Burke has provided a threat on the flank late in matches. Leipzig have young players dispersed throughout their squad, with Marvin Compper the elder statesman of the side at the age of 31, while no other starter is older than 28.
Hasenhuttl has a great deal of talent in the middle of the park, providing quality and energy. Naby Keita and Marcel Sabitzer have offered a real goal threat, supporting Werner in attack. Keita has notched four goals in his 10 matches, while the Austrian has found the net three times, helping their side boast the third-best strike force in the division.
At the other end of the pitch, Leipzig have been even better, conceding just nine goals this term. They’ve kept four clean sheets, while shutting out the most-potent attack in the Bundesliga – Dortmund – at the Red Bull Arena. Should they maintain their form their fine form at the back they should be a lock to finish in the top three this term. BVB boss Thomas Tuchel has even said they could do a Leicester.
One area of concern for Hasenhuttl is his players’ lack of experience in the Bundesliga and a potential title race. That could prevent them from challenging late in the season, with much hinging on how they react to injuries and disappointing results. The club and players have proven to be fearless in their dramatic rise and it would not be a surprise for them to remain in the mix until the latter stages of the season.