Preview: FC Bayern – RB Leipzig

Justin Separator December 20, 2016

Prior to the game we spoke to Matthias from the rotebrauseblog about the whole project RB Leipzig, but focused mainly on topics regarding their abilities sports-wise.

Image: Michael Böck

Hello Matthias, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you got into RB Leipzig. What is so special about the club?

Hi, I’m Matthias and 43 years old. I have a blog called In 2009, when I came to Leipzig, I had no kind of affection towards football clubs whatsoever. I wanted to experience live action with a strong perspective in the future. All that was given due to the investor who guaranteed structure. At first, I only visited a few matches at our home ground. One year later all of them and even some encounters away from Leipzig. From 2012 on I am there for almost all games of the season. To summarize the process: Tried, liked, stayed!

How do you cope with all those negative statements towards RB? And more importantly how do you argue against?

That’s not easy to state briefly. There are way too many arguments regarding different topics like internal structure, commerce, tradition, the connection to Salzburg and much more. Each topic has its own debates, which are sometimes likely to end up in general discussions about competition, clubs and sociality around them.

What do you think about general statements like “lack of tradition” or comments regarding the club’s structure?

I basically have no problem with the current structure. I was much more interested into the idea. From my perspective, the competitiveness in Germany is not great anymore. RB possibly is a result of the process up until now. I do get arguments like “plastic club”, “there are no feelings”, or regarding the town Leipzig, that RB took over and supressed local competitors.

Let’s talk about football. Why is Leipzig more successful than all the other competitors?

I really don’t know. It’s obvious that Ralph Hasenhüttl improved the team massively in comparison to the start of season. Now we have a clear structure in our gameplay and all players know how to act in specific situations. As a result the system does not demand too much from our players, but is still challenging for the opponents. He brought all the intensity from Ingolstadt to Leipzig and, in combination with higher individual quality, we see a more rational, well working team. I don’t know why so many teams struggle against us, but I can assure that sometimes opponents lack aggressiveness, which was a challenge for RB in the second division.

Which teams do you see as your main competitors?

Generally I thought we would compete for places in between eight and twelve. Now with three points clear to third place in the table you cannot deny competing for the Champions League qualification.

To reach the level of FC Bayern is going be a long way to go. What are the long-term goals of RB Leipzig?

The target was to play European football within three years. Internally I guess the club planned to reach the international stage in their second Bundesliga season. In addition to that it will be necessary to develop financially (TV money, sponsors, stadium) to stabilize the clubs base beyond the financial power of Red Bull and to play regular European football. If we do well, we can be one of the teams who may profit from weak phases of Bayern Munich. But for me getting on eye level with Bayern is absurd. I think a constant development towards the level of Borussia Dortmund is a more realistic approach.

Who has more influence on the way the team plays? Rangnick or Hasenhüttl?

The current success can mainly be credited to Hasenhüttl. He managed to make our pressing more effective with less focus on hard-running. Rangnick is the glue, which keeps the club together. He has everything under control and can be the perfect advisor in many ways. Both are currently in their perfect position and benefit of each other. It is hard to imagine a better constellation right now. It will be interesting to see how they will react in bad phases of the season. If Rangnick’s closeness to the team is still a positive factor or not, I don’t know.

A successful duo: Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhüttl
(Photo: Robert Michael / AFP / Getty Images)

The main concept is to counter-attack rapidly, but the team is also quite strong in possession. Are there any weak points in the team and is there some room for improvements?

Considering the games against Augsburg and Bremen you are right. We found good solutions. To name weak points is currently quite hard for me. Regarding our gameplay adjustments are always possible and the team is quite flexible. The only thing I can think of is an aggressive approach by our opponents like we saw in Ingolstadt. The individual quality is not as good as in Munich to outplay them like Bayern does, thus fighting becomes more important in those games.

How good is the squad terms of depth?

Generally it is quite unbalanced, especially in defence and because of many injuries. Tactics are one instrument to make up for that. But on the long run we need more depth within the squad to avoid compromises regarding the line-up. Like Ilsanker who played as a full-back or centre-back. We have 17 outfield players overall and three of them are injured (Compper, Klostermann, Papadoupulus). If Keita and Halstenberg are missing out on Wednesday as well, it will be quite hard in Munich.

What kind of approach are you expecting and where do you see weak spots in Bayern’s gameplay so far?

The approach might be the same like in Dortmund where we tried to destroy the build-up play by covering the central midfielders. Our full-backs need to work hard as well to prevent fast attacks on the wings. The team will press aggressively just after the half-way line but also needs to maintain compactness. Then you need some luck in duels. Bayern is able to outplay opponents with long passes as well, which will be the biggest challenge in my opinion. Their problems are in defence after losing possession. Alonso and Martinez were not as convincing regarding that matter for the past few games. That could be exciting to see how they will act against Poulsen, Werner and even Keita, if he is able to play.

With a win Leipzig becomes Herbstmeister in their first Bundesliga season. Do you see a chance to fight for the title?

I think it depends on how Bayern is playing over the rest of the season. The team has surprised me so many times that I stopped thinking about the “regression to the Bundesliga mean”. You will need around 80 points to compete for the title, which is by any means unrealistic for Leipzig. Someone of the champion’s teams of Kaiserslautern in 1998 said that you need to win the games against Bayern to make it possible. So… if Bayern loses on Wednesday things might become much more interesting for the second leg of the season.

Predict the result for us?

Realistically it will be a 2-1 win for Bayern like in Hoffenheim’s first Bundesliga season. But I wish for a 3-1 win of RB.

If you could choose one Bayern player to play for your team… who would it be and why?

Are you serious?. Of course I would choose Joshua Kimmich. I have the feeling he still somehow belongs to Leipzig. I will tell my grandchildren about his first appearance ever against Heidenheim. He played like the natural leader of the team, in an away game that was quite important at this point.

On Wednesday the duel of the two defences will take place in the Allianz Arena. While Leipzig conceded 12, Munich only conceded 9 goals in the championship so far.

The team of Ralph Hasenhüttl is especially exciting, because they’re not only successful with their extreme attacking, but also their ability to defend compact and with a high-line. That’s the difference between RB Leipzig, with utmost caution, and most other “Bayern-hunters“ in the past.

Scouting report

FC Bayern München - RB Leipzig Leipzig‘s pressing leaves three areas vacant in their 4-2-2-2.

The system essentially defines itself through a high midfield press in a 4-2-2-2, that wins the ball through good spacing and clever pressing traps. Subsequently the game of RB is very vertical and fast. Ideally resulting in a shot on goal within a few seconds.

Against the ball, three big areas are left open for the opponent. The centre will be surrounded by six players, who can all attack that area immediately. The wings in midfield are also usually open. There a defensive midfielder, the respective attacker and the full-back will pounce and isolate the opponent.

Bayern will have to be prepared, that Leipzig want to lead them into certain areas to create superiority. This means the occupation of the midfield will be important for the Ancelotti eleven. If there’s not enough support in the described areas, the side of Hasenhüttl will strike mercilessly.

How effective the 4-2-2-2 still is despite the intensive running is also shown by the average of allowed shots on target. The opponents of RB are averaging 8.2 shots on target per game, Bayern allow 7.8. Both clubs are also the two best teams there.

RB Leipzig is ahead of Bayern (5) with 7 goals after counters, the most effective Bundesliga team in transition. It’s impressive how the team has kept up its pace over half of a season.

The promoted team is covering 116.14km on average per game. Only SC Freiburg (117.73km) are running more. The question for when the tiredness will start has been answered with remarkable consistency from Leipzig.

RB Leipzig are one of the teams that only need very few passes to create their shots.
(Analytics: Lukas)

Duel of the superlatives

However, Leipzig is not a pure counter-attacking team. In possession RB has displayed very good approaches. Constant movement, individual class of Sabitzer, Forsberg, Werner or Keita and the will to offer more than one passing option to the ball carrier led to 16 goals through longer periods of possession. Only Hoffenheim (17), Bayern (24) and BVB (27) have scored more in that category.

The offensive penetration is underlined by the number of shots on goal. Together with Hoffenheim, but after Bayern, they have the second most attempts per game. Particularly the quality of those chances is huge. Leipzig are averaging 10.4 shots on target per game in the opposition box. Compared to Bayern with 11.1.

Next to the two best defences, both teams also have some of the most dangerous forwards in the Bundesliga. While the record champion has scored the most goals (35), Leipzig (31) are sitting in third behind Dortmund (34). The young squad of Ralph Hasenhüttl is versatile, fast paced and creative in front of goal. In 14 out of 15 Bundesliga games they’ve scored at least once.

(League Position)
Shots inside the penalty area
(League Position)
(League Position)
FC Bayern260 (1.)167 (1.)35 (1.)
RB Leipzig214 (2.)155 (2.)31 (3.)

Timo Werner (9), Emil Forsberg (5), Naby Keita as well was Marcel Sabitzer (4 each) are the most successful goal scorers for Leipzig. Forsberg is also the player with the highest number of assists in the league. He has provided 8 assists already. Keita, of all people, who is playing an outstanding season, is questionable for the game in Munich.

In its first season the promoted team is revealing barely any weaknesses. The question will be – and that’s the breaking point in this system – if they’ll be able to stretch the pace and intensity over a whole season.

To cover all zones with high compactness, a lot of kilometres have to be ran. Currently it looks like as if RB possesses the kind of physicality and fitness, that hasn’t been seen in a long time. Especially because of that, Bayern should be warned.

The two top teams of the season head-to-head.
(Analytics: Lukas)

Ancelotti has to find the right personnel

For the reigning champion it’ll come down to playing through the aforementioned pressing. Ancelotti will give it a thought, if Alonso is the right solution. The Spaniard would be in Leipzig’s hexagon in the centre and would presumably not have any access to the game. A more pressing-resistant double pivot consisting of Thiago and Kimmich (or Lahm) would fit this opponent better.

The playmaker space (zone 14) will play a big role, too. Leipzig’s compact spacing has to be pulled apart by Bayern. However, this will still require players in the centre to then work in the opening zones.

The visitors will be prepared for Bayern trying to create danger down the wings. Müller is the perfect match for the important task next to and behind Lewandowski.

On the wings Costa, Ribéry and Robben are available, two out of the three have played well recently. If Ancelotti goes by performance, Ribéry will have to start on the bench. That’s not saying he’s off form, no, the other two have just helped the team more in the past weeks.

Assists and goals aren’t the only criterion though. Costa is a standout with a lot of successful dribbles, his joy of playing and much less hara-kiri moves than the past second half of the season. Additionally, he’s more helpful for the record champions’ banged up positional play than the Frenchman. Robben is Bayern’s man for the big games and should be a starter on the other wing.

Next to good occupation of the key positions it’ll be just as important to play as a team. The spacing against the ball has to be right, support for the player in possession should be provided and especially the pace, which was missing in Darmstadt, has to make a comeback.

FC Bayern’s record against the current top teams of the Bundesliga is shocking. Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Frankfurt and Cologne have put a spoke in Bayern’s wheel. Only against Hertha they managed a win.

The home game against Leipzig would be the perfect moment to send a message to the league. The quality is undoubtedly there. Hasenhüttl and Rangnick will give their team a good plan, however.

Ancelotti’s response to that and the performance of the team relating to that are now challenged.

Five bold predictions

  1. Bayern will be Herbstmeister.
  2. There won’t be more than three goals.
  3. Robben will be directly involved in at least one goal.
  4. Alonso takes a seat on the bench.
  5. It will be a draw at half-time.

My optimism ahead of the Darmstadt game was punished, unfortunately. Only one correct prediction and a poor game. Overall: 51/100

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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