In what has become a rarity over the last decade, the Bundesliga title race is coming down to the wire. On Saturday, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig meet in a top of the table clash that may end up determining the winner of this season’s competition.
After 26 matches played, Bayern currently hold a four-point advantage, with 61 points compared to Leipzig’s 57.
A win for the Bavarians would most likely confirm a record ninth straight Bundesliga title. However, victory for Leipzig, while it would still leave them a point behind, would generate momentum and belief that the club can win its first-ever league championship.
After playing out an entertaining 3-3 draw in their first meeting this season back in December, Bayern and Leipzig will look to take one step further with a victory, on the road toward a trophy and glory.
Bundesliga Title On the Line as Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig Face Each Other
Bayern’s High-Flying Attack
The main theme of Bayern’s 2020/21 season so far is the constant flow of goals each match, by them and their opposition.
Through 26 league matches, Bayern have scored 78 goals, through a combination of high pressing tactics under manager Hansi Flick, and incredible brilliance from their star-studded attacking squad. The last time the reigning European champions did not score a goal in a match during any competition was on February 9, 2020, coincidentally against Leipzig.
Robert Lewandowski’s Absence
Leading the goalscoring machine of Bayern is none other than Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.
After winning The Best FIFA Men’s Player award in 2020, the 32-year-old continued his rampant goalscoring form this season, already scoring 35 league goals, which is just five goals shy of tying former Bayern striker Gerd Müller’s single-season record set in 1971/72.
Unfortunately for Bayern, Lewandowski will not be active for Saturday’s match, as he suffered a strained ligament in his right knee on Sunday in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Andorra, where he scored two goals in a 3-0 win for Poland. The club announced he will miss four weeks as a result, which will not only be devastating for Bayern’s Bundesliga chances but also their hope of winning back-to-back UEFA Champions League titles.
Remaining Bavarian Stars
Luckily for the defending champions, there is plenty of attacking talent remaining to give Leipzig problems.
Veteran Thomas Müller, along with wingers Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman, have all performed at a high level. Müller has scored ten league goals to go along with 14 assists, complementing Gnabry’s nine goals, Sane’s nine assists and Coman’s ten assists.
Additionally, Bayern’s midfield duo of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka provides additional balance and service to the attack, with Kimmich also accumulating ten league assists and Goretzka seven. Despite losing star midfielder Thiago Alcantara on a transfer to Liverpool, the middle of the pitch for Bayern has not been an issue, with the two Germans in command each match.
However, the Achilles heel for Der Rekordmeister this season is their defensive fragility. Despite scoring a league-high 78 goals, Bayern have also allowed 35 – three more than all of last season – and only the fifth fewest in the league. In fact, Bayern’s clean sheet record this season is very poor, with only six.
Even with the presence of world-class defenders, such as Alphonso Davies, Niklas Süle, David Alaba, Benjamin Pavard and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Bayern’s inability to prevent the opposition from scoring has caused uncertainty at times, along with uncomfortable league performances.
Whether it is due to fatigue from the constant flow of matches in a condensed season, a lack of concentration, poor positioning or a combination of them all, Bayern’s poor defensive record provides an opportunity for Leipzig to exploit, as they did during the teams previous meeting.
Leipzig took the lead twice in the last encounter, through precise counter-attacks and movement behind the Bayern backline. If Die Roten Bullen can execute a similar game plan on Saturday, Bayern’s reign of dominance in Germany may come to an end.
Leipzig’s Strong Defence
In contrast to Bayern, the clear strength of Leipzig this season is their defensive stability, conceding only 21 goals in the league, the fewest of all clubs.
In half of their league matches played so far, Julian Nagelsmann’s squad recorded 13 clean sheets. With a strong backline consisting of centre-backs Dayot Upamecano (on his way to Bayern at the end of the season), Ibrahima Konaté, Willi Orbán and Lukas Klostermann, Leipzig are a formidable force to score against.
A Balanced Attack
On the attacking front, Leipzig have been solid, but not spectacular, scoring 48 league goals (fourth-most in the Bundesliga), which is significantly fewer than last year’s team, who netted 81 times.
Unlike Bayern, where Lewandowski’s brilliance accounts for nearly half of the team’s goals, Leipzig do not have one prolific scorer. With the sale of Timo Werner to Chelsea for £47.70 million, Leipzig lost their best goalscoring threat as the German bagged 45 goals in all competitions last season.
Therefore, without Werner, others were forced to step up to try to take his place on the goalscoring charts.
Nobody on the Leipzig squad has scored more than ten goals in the league, as the highest total is six, shared by midfielders Marcel Sabitzer and Christopher Nkunku, along with winger Emil Forsberg. Only one player, Yussuf Poulsen, has scored over ten goals in all competitions (11 total), with five coming in the DFB Pokal.
However, Leipzig’s best weapon may be left-back Angeliño, provider of eight goals and 11 assists in all competitions.
The 24-year-old Spaniard, who is currently on loan from Manchester City, frequently uses his pace and vision to push up the pitch, providing crosses into the opposition penalty box for Leipzig’s attackers to head home. He assisted Forsberg in this fashion against Bayern, which gave Leipzig a 3-2 second-half lead before Müller evened the match up.
Like Lewandowski, Angeliño suffered a setback this season with a muscular injury, which kept him out of six matches since late February. If he can play on Saturday, it will be a massive boost for Leipzig.
With Lewandowski out, Hansi Flick may decide to start Müller, Gnabry, Sane and Coman in their customary 4-2-3-1 formation, with Gnabry playing up top. It is a role the 25-year-old is familiar with, as he played there in the last two World Cup qualifiers for Germany, scoring the team’s only goal in a 1-0 win against Romania on Sunday.
Nevertheless, the opportunity is there for Leipzig. After collapsing in the final months last season, Nagelsmann’s squad can knock Bayern off of their Bundesliga perch and make history. The fact that Leipzig have not lost to Bayern since May 2019 should also boost their confidence.
Even if Leipzig are victorious on Saturday, seven matches will remain, and they will still trail Bayern by one point. But the chance of a league title will exist, and the Bayern hegemony may enter its final weeks. Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig will both be going all out to take home all three points.