This weekend’s Bundesliga clash between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the RedBull Arena doesn’t need any additional hyping. The title implications alone at this stage of the season make this the biggest match of the season for both clubs. Bayern is ahead in the table by four points, but that could swing quickly if Julian Nagelsmann’s men were to take full points at home on Saturday.
Ahead of the match, former Bayern and Germany defender Philipp Lahm sat down and gave a lengthy interview with Bundesliga.com to preview the massive encounter. He only played Leipzig twice during his playing career, but he’s well aware of how big of a test this will be for Hansi Flick and company.
From Leipzig’s perspective, they’ve been able to improve upon last season’s form and they’ve found ways to turn draws into wins and take full points, which is something that slightly held them back in the Bundesliga last season. Lahm sees this as a trend that will continue for Die Roten Bullen despite Bayern still being the favorites and he said the onus will be on Leipzig to come out of the gates and chase the game.
“Yeah, they’ve [Leipzig] shown that they can challenge. Last season they had a lot of draws. This season, it’s different. They’ve been able to win more games and you can see the effect that has had on the table. Last year, they were towards the top of the table already and, yes, they are Bayern’s competition and, in the years to come, I think they can continue to be Bayern’s rivals. The game between the two teams will be the decisive match. Leipzig have to chase and to win the game, then there will be one point between the two sides and anything is possible, but they can’t lose this game against Bayern. If they do then there will be a seven-point difference between the two sides and Bayern will be tough to stop,” Lahm explained.
Lahm said that Leipzig is different from Bayern and play a very compact brand of football. Bayern is used to controlling dominant possession against 90% of their opponents in the Bundesliga, and their Achilles heel has always been getting caught out on counter attacks despite having an overwhelmingly productive attack. Not to mention, Bayern’s strength in depth, especially in attack, is something that most other clubs don’t possess, though they’ll be without talisman Robert Lewandowski for up to four weeks.
Leipzig has only conceded a league best 21 goals thus far, which is a testament to their compact tactics and counter attacking ability. Lahm compared this current Leipzig side to Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund back when he was manager there in the late 2000s and early 2010s. “Leipzig and [Julian] Nagelsmann are similar with [Jürgen] Klopp and Dortmund in 2011/2012. They play compact. They’re very physical. They play with speed; they win the ball back and then go at goal as quickly as possible. Of course, they have quality in their squad too. They can play with the ball, but their squad is mainly focused on winning the ball back and trying to get shots on goal as soon as possible,” Lahm said.
Lahm continued, “As I’ve said, Bayern have a lot of possession and concede now and then from counter-attacks. That can happen. It’s not my job to know what the issue is there but, as long as they keep being so effective going forward and keep scoring so many goals and creating so many chances, there’s no problem for Bayern to concede so many goals because I think their goal difference is plus 40 or something like that, which is very good. So as long as it stays like that, it can be enough for them to still win the Bundesliga.”
The key for Bayern will be whether or not their attack can be as blistering without Lewandowski. Regardless of if he gets on the score sheet or not, which he didn’t in the Hinrunde meeting between the two sides, he always poses a threat and requires a great deal of attention from opposition defenses. Flick will have decisions to make as far as how he lines up his attack in Lewandowski’s absence, but there are plenty of options he can choose from.