There are many subplots at work for this weekend’s mega-tilt between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig. You could focus on the young upstarts taking on the veteran defending champions or the battle of the brains that will occur between Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac and RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann or you could even start to examine which defense is more likely to fall victim to the opposition’s tactics.
But that’s not what we’re here to do today because we want to look at the showdown between the high-scoring strikers for each team: Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski vs. RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 174 lbs
Stats: Six goals in three Bundesliga games; seven goals in five games across competitions.
Strengths: Ability to score in a variety of ways from a variety of areas. Uses his body effectively to hold the ball and create space.
Weaknesses: Bouts of getting lost in the shuffle within the box at times (though not often). Lewandowski is likely the most complete striker in the world.
Odd fact (s): Often enjoys dessert before dinner; questionable taste in eye wear.
Weight: 165 lbs
Stats: Five goals in three Bundesliga games; five goals and one assist total in four games across competitions.
Strengths: Speed, the ability to lose defenders with his pace, the ability to link-up with the players around him.
Weaknesses: Execution with his passing. When not looking for his own goals, Werner often can see teammates in an advantageous position, but the execution of getting them the ball in a good spot is not always there.
Odd fact (s): Unlike some footballers, Werner actually finished high school before going pro. Werner had circulatory problems during a game in Istanbul which caused him to have to wear ear plugs due to the noise in the arena and to ward off the pain.
What to expect from Lewandowski
Lewandowski has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. At 31, he looks as dangerous as ever and has shown the ability to score in a multitude of ways via free play or on set pieces. Simply put, Lewandowski is at the top of his game as Bayern Munich prepares for this match against the club currently residing in first place.
Lewandowski will absolutely draw the attention of the RB Leipzig central defense, but given the proclivity of Leipzig wing-backs Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg to venture far up the pitch to contribute offensively, Lewandowski will no doubt try to exploit to gaps in the wide space by running in behind Nagelsmann’s wing-backs.
RB Leipzig center-back trio of Willi Orban, Ibrahima Konate, and Nordi Mukiele will no doubt take a physical approach with Lewandowski. Specifically, they will try to rough him up. Dayot Upamecano could also be back in the line-up, which would give Nagelsmann yet another physical presence to throw at the Polish Hitman.
Another factor in how Lewandowski performs could be who Kovac surrounds him with. Will Kovac use Thomas Müller or Philippe Coutinho? Will Ivan Perisic be on the wing or will Kovac use Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry? Will Joshua Kimmich play as a defensive midfielder and push Benjamin Pavard to outside-back, or will we see Corentin Tolisso and Thiago Alcantara?
All of these factors will impact how the Bayern offense flows throughout the game.
What to expect from Werner
For Werner, this game will be a bit personal. How much pressure he puts on himself to perform could be the key to how he produces on the pitch. Because Werner was so closely linked to a move to Bayern Munich that ultimately fell through, the 23-year-old striker will have additional incentive to find the back of the net and show his quality.
The specter of that pressure could have an effect on his mentality, but Werner won’t have it easy even if he does not putting undue pressure on himself. Bayern Munich center-backs Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez are both fast, physical, and thoroughly capable of disrupting Werner’s lightning-quick style of play. Moreover, David Alaba and either Benjamin Pavard and Joshua Kimmich at right-back are also athletic enough to at least slow down Werner.
Frankly, though, Werner will still find holes behind or around Bayern’s defenders, but how successfully will depend on how quickly his teammates get him the ball. A split second of hesitation will be extremely costly against the quick and sturdy Bayern Munich defensive unit. Still, with Yussuf Poulsen also occupying space up top in RB Leipzig’s formation and with players like Marcel Sabitzer, Emil Forsberg, Klostermann, and Halstenberg also capable offensive threats, Bayern Munich won’t likely be able to gang up on Werner.
If RB Leipzig plays tentative or in fear of giving up a turnover that will spark Bayern Munich’s offense, it will fail — and fail spectacularly. RB Leipzig must maintain its confidence or it will fall right into the conservative style of play that the Bavarians thrive against.
The fans. Watching how both Werner and Lewandowski impact the game will be fascinating. Given how Werner hung around for most of the summer, waiting for Bayern Munich to formalize and finalize a proposal to RB Leipzig, no doubt puts a bit of a chip on Werner’s shoulder. Werner will absolutely want to show Bayern Munich what they are missing by not bringing him. Hopefully — for the sake of the game’s entertainment — Werner does not press too much and allows the game to come to him rather than force things.
As for Lewandowski, he just wants to score...on everyone...all the time. The Poland international would like nothing more than to put up two or three goals on RB Leipzig that would propel Bayern Munich back atop the Bundesliga standings.
This one should be a lot of fun.