Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has encouraged his side to confirm that they are Bundesliga title strong contenders when they face trending champions Bayern Munich in one of two top-of-the-table clashes on Saturday.
Leipzig is hosting Bayern on Saturday evening, hours after fellow Champions League members Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen do battle in Dortmund. The two matches are expected to set the clock for what many are predicting will be a three or four horse title race.
Germany great Lothar Matthaeus said last week that Leipzig, who finished third last season and reached the German trophy final, were sure title contenders under new coach Nagelsmann.
“I am always happy when experts like Matthaeus see the team’s development positively — now we have to confirm it. The game will not be decisive for the title race, but a win can give us a lot of confidence,” Nagelsmann said Thursday.
The 32-year-old coaching prodigy said that in-form striker Timo Werner will most likely make a difference against Bayern. Werner, 23, has scored five goals in three matches already this season.
“He is on a good run, and he can really hurt Bayern,” warned Nagelsmann.
Bayern are still without Leon Goretzka after the midfielder underwent a thigh operation this week, but they otherwise return from the international break at full strength.
The champions, who trail Leipzig by two points in second place due to their opening day draw with Hertha Berlin, can go top with a win on Saturday.
“This is where the season gets going. We have six games until the next break, and we want to position ourselves high in the table. The game against Leipzig is important in that regard,” said coach Niko Kovac on Thursday.
Kovac further assured that Leipzig were not Bayern’s only contenders for the Bundesliga title this season.
“You also have to mention Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. Those were the top four teams last year, and I think they will share the spoils this year as well,” he said.
Dortmund sit one spot behind Leverkusen in fifth and are under an increasing pressure after a recent dip in form. Coach Lucien Favre dealt with large criticism in the German media following an unexpected 3-1 lose away to promoted side Union Berlin at the end of August.
Bild newspaper said on Wednesday that most players were disgruntled with Favre’s choice of selection and tactics for the game, thereby calling the atmosphere around the club a “powder keg”.
Though Favre Thursday claimed that he still had the full support of the dressing room.
“We have lost one game. The trust is still there. We need to look forward and be positive. We know about Leverkusen’s quality. It is no coincidence that they finished fourth last year,” said the Swiss.
Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz will return to Dortmund for the second time since his ill-fated, six-month spell in charge of the club in 2017 for the Saturday match. The Dutchman’s reign at Dortmund ended in frustration following a nine-game no-win run, but he changed the stereotype by leading Leverkusen into the Champions League last season.
Leverkusen midfielder Sven Bender, who was a former Dortmund player, hailed Bosz this week, calling him a “sensational coach”.
Dortmund midfielder Julian Brandt will also hit against his former colleagues on Saturday, after he left Leverkusen for 25.5 million euros ($28.1m) deal in June.
SportRazzi releases Bundesliga fixtures (kick-off times 1330 GMT unless stated):
Fortuna Duesseldorf v Wolfsburg (1830)
Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen, Mainz v Hertha berlin, Augsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt, Cologne v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Union Berlin v Werder Bremen, RB Leipzig v Bayern Munich (1630)
Hoffenheim v Freiburg, Paderborn v Schalke