Title rivals RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich, the Julian Nagelsmann factor, two of the world’s best defenders in Dayot Upamecano and Josko Gvardiol – and more. bundesliga.com has the lowdown as third prepares to host first in the opening fixture of 2023…
The season so far
Leipzig may have begun the campaign as DFB Cup holders, but a 5-3 Supercup defeat against Bayern preceded a stuttering start to the season.
With five defeats across all competitions and a lowly spot in the Bundesliga standings, coach Domenico Tedesco reached the end in terms of his time at the Leipzig helm. Local boy Marco Rose stepped in and following a few tweaks, the tactician had Die Roten Bullen rampaging up the league and getting their UEFA Champions League challenge back on track. A standout victory against Real Madrid sits in pride of place amid a current 13-match unbeaten run that has Leipzig in third place in the Bundesliga, and through to the Champions League knockouts – where they will face Manchester City – and the DFB Cup last 16.
Bayern, coincidentally, is also on a 13-game unbeaten streak ahead of their trip to the Red Bull Arena, and although their early-season travails didn’t quite match the lows Leipzig endured, the Bavarian giants nonetheless had their obstacles to overcome. With club legend Robert Lewandowski having moved on, the record champions strengthened with new signings Sadio Mane, Matthijs de Ligt, Noussair Mazraoui, Ryan Gravenberch and Mathys Tel.
Bayern burst out of the blocks, racking up goals for fun against Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bochum. However, three top-flight draws and a surprising loss to Augsburg raised alarms. Nagelsmann kept his cool and soon steered the FCB ship back on course after that aforementioned derby defeat, getting Bayern from fifth to the top of the standings prior to the World Cup break and completing a perfect Champions League group stage for the second straight season. The men from Munich also made it through to the DFB Cup third round for the first time in three years.
Goals for, goals against
Over the past five seasons, Leipzig has only matched or bettered their current total of 30 goals at this stage of a season just one other time: namely, in 2019/20, when they scored 42 goals after 15 games. In terms of all competitions, Rose’s men have netted a total of 58 times with 12 players among the goals. Christopher Nkunku not only leads the way on Die Roten Bullen’s list with 17 goals, but France forward’s 12 strikes in the Bundesliga also put him above the rest as the division’s top marksman.
Timo Werner comes next in Leipzig’s scoring charts this term with nine goals across all competitions and four in the Bundesliga. Andre Silva (seven in all competitions) and Emil Forsberg (four) have also weighed in. However, Leipzig’s goals against column in the Bundesliga reads 21, their joint-worst tally after 15 games in the past five campaigns.
Bayern is certainly a step up in the goalscoring stakes, the Bavarians having hit a whopping 82 goals so far in 2022/23. Of those goals, 49 goals have come in the Bundesliga – far and away above the next highest-scoring side, Frankfurt (32). Teen sensation Jamal Musiala is top of the shots at the Allianz Arena with 12 goals in total, his nine strikes in the Bundesliga making the 19-year-old the division’s fourth-highest goalscorer along with Freiburg’s Vincenzo Grifo.
Serge Gnabry has eight Bundesliga goals, while summer signing Mane is on six. What a season it’s been for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, too. The Cameroon international has found the net 11 times in all competitions and he will be keen to pick up where he left off, with the 33-year-old managing six goals in his last five Bundesliga games before the break. Meanwhile, Bayern’s 13 goals conceded in Germany’s top-tier this term represent their best defensive showing since 2017/18.
Last season’s Bundesliga Player of the Season, Nkunku is once again showing the sort of form that brought him plenty of plaudits last time out. The 25-year-old has scored 11 times in 12 of his last outings as RBL fine-tuned their counter-attacking style but misses the Bayern encounter through injury. Luckily, Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai has hit his stride and sits joint second on the Bundesliga’s assists chart (seven).
Central defender Gvardiol has been a solid presence in defence – the Croatian even added a goal in the win against Real Madrid to his superb campaign to date. After helping Croatia to third place at the World Cup, plenty of attention will be on the 20-year-old once the season resumes with the toughest of challenges against Bayern.
Bayern’s Mr Reliable in the engine room, ex-Leipzig man Joshua Kimmich, has been keeping a watchful eye over on-field proceedings and has been typically tireless with his performances, game after game. A scorer of Bayern’s opening Bundesliga goal of the season via a clever free-kick, Kimmich has added three assists in Germany’s top division, but it has been the intensity of his displays, solid tackling and precise delivery that have been most impressive.
Further forward, Musiala (15 direct goal involvements in the Bundesliga) and Gnabry (11) have provided fireworks, while Mane (11 goals in all competitions) quickly settled into life with his new team before injury denied him at shot at the World Cup – and Leipzig on Matchday 16. Choupo-Moting, meanwhile, will be eager to show his opening to the season was no anomaly by adding to his 11 goals and three assists in 16 matches across all competitions.
Leipzig has been able to count on some solid displays from goalkeeper Janis Blaswich in the absence of club captain Peter Gulacsi, while Rose will be keen to see Werner return to action after the forward missed Germany’s World Cup challenge with a ligament tear. The former Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund coach should have the player nicknamed ‘Turbo’ back in time for the Bayern test, but the same cannot be said of Nkunku.
The Parisian also missed out on the Qatar showpiece with France due to a knee complaint and Rose may have to shuffle his pack to accommodate what would prove a key absence. Without Nkunku, Rose must decide whether to switch from his 4-4-2 formation deployed – and successfully so – before the break or rejig his personnel to fit their current style. The likes of Dani Olmo and Yussuf Poulsen are candidates to fill Nkunku’s shoes.
Nagelsmann is equally troubled by injuries as he prepares his team for a return to action. During the break, Manuel Neuer broke a leg while on a skiing trip, while Lucas Hernandez’s season ended one game into France’s World Cup tilt, the defender succumbing to a cruciate ligament rupture.
In goal, Sven Ulreich should come in for Neuer, while Nagelsmann may opt for a central defensive pairing of Dayot Upamecano and either De Light or January signing Daley Blind. With Mane continuing his recovery following surgery to reattach a tendon to the head of his right fibula, Bayern’s attacking reserves will also be on standby.
There is no sugar-coating the record between these teams for – in their short history in the elite – Leipzig has won just once in 15 encounters against Bayern. The reigning Bundesliga champions added a sixth away win at the Red Bull Arena with last July’s Supercup triumph and they are unbeaten in their last 10 against Leipzig.
There is, of course, optimism among the home ranks ahead of this first Bundesliga meeting between the teams this term. Prior to Bayern losing against Augsburg this season, Leipzig was the last team to stop the Bavarians from scoring in a Bundesliga fixture, a run that stretched back to 9 February 2020 and which eventually took in 82 games.
The question now is: can Leipzig topple the champions and bag what would be just their second win against Bayern, or will the visitors overpower their title rivals just as they did in the season curtain raiser last July? You’ll have to tune in to find out!