Bayern-Leipzig: Quality match ups

It is still early but it looks as if the Bundesliga title will be decided in a three-horse race between leaders Borussia Dortmund, champions Bayern Munich and last season’s runners up RB Leipzig.

Munich and Leipzig provide a blockbuster match up this weekend as the two sides take each other on in the league on Saturday, October 28, at 18:30 on StarSat channel 245 (ST World Football).

This is the second match between the two sides, this week, after they faced each other in the German Cup on Wednesday night. That match ended with Bayern winning on penalties after the two sides finished extra time with game deadlocked at 1-1.

On Saturday they face each other knowing that victory over a fellow title contender can go a long way towards winning the league.

The match between Bayern and Leipzig will be filled with interesting mini contests across the park and here are some of the contests which were highlighted by

Midfield maestros: Thiago vs. Naby Keita

Thiago has been one of the Bundesliga’s coolest and most consistent performers in recent years. With an average of 112 touches per game, he is Bayern’s chief orchestrator in midfield, setting the tempo and providing the impetus for much of their attacking play. He seems to enjoy playing Leipzig, too, having scored in both of their league meetings last term.

When he is partnered with the more defensive-minded Javi Martinez or Sebastian Rudy in Jupp Heynckes’ 4-2-3-1 formation, the Spaniard is given greater licence to roam forward and try to pick holes in the opposition defence. His passing ability is second to none and he isn’t afraid to get stuck in, winning two-thirds of his challenges in the middle of the park.

A born competitor, the 26-year-old will no doubt be looking forward to another battle with Naby Keita, a player who shares many of his strengths. The Guinean is a similarly complete midfielder who also has a natural tendency to drive forward. In his 37 Bundesliga games to date, he has had a hand in 18 goals – scoring nine and setting up nine more – and Leipzig have never lost a Bundesliga match when he has ended up on the scoresheet.

Quick and powerful, Keita has fewer touches per match than Thiago (76), but rarely loses possession thanks to his excellent reading of the game. The 22-year-old knows when to play a simple pass and when there is scope to take risks and attempt to dribble past opponents. He isn’t an easy man to stop once he gets going, either, and has already been fouled 15 times this season.

In a similar way to Bayern’s Arturo Vidal, though, the full-blooded Keita gives just as good as he gets. He has picked up 10 yellow cards in his relatively short Bundesliga career, and was banned for three games after catching Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Christoph Kramer in the face with a boot on Matchday 4. Needless to say, Leipzig didn’t look quite the same prospect in his absence.

Boasting a compelling mixture of elegance, awareness and strength, both Thiago and Keita could hold the key to victory by providing that all-important link between defence and attack.

Wide boys: Arjen Robben vs. Emil Forsberg

Robben has played every minute for Bayern since Heynckes’ return to the dugout, which clearly underlines his importance in the eyes of the veteran coach. The 33-year-old may not have scored against Freiburg (5-0), Celtic (3-0) or Hamburg (1-0), but provided typical menace from the right flank as the Bavarians won all three games, setting up Kingsley Coman for the second goal against Freiburg and wearing the captain’s armband for the narrow win over HSV.

The flying Dutchman recently hung up his international boots in order to focus on club matters, and he still looks capable of hitting the dizzying heights of years gone by, especially after an injury-free 2017. Saturday’s game against Leipzig could even see him write his name in the Bayern history books as the club’s most prolific foreign scorer – he currently shares the record of 92 Bundesliga goals with retired Brazilian striker Giovane Elber.

Overall, Robben has notched an eye-watering 133 goals and 100 assists in 268 competitive games for Bayern, since arriving from Real Madrid in 2009. Leipzig certainly won’t need reminding what he’s capable of, having watched on helplessly as the Dutchman grabbed a 95th-minute winner in that nine-goal thriller back in May.

However, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side have their own wily winger in the form of Emil Forsberg, who was one of the Bundesliga’s standout performers in 2016/17 with eight goals and a league-high 19 assists. The Swedish international has yet to really hit his stride in the current campaign – he’s only had a hand in one goal, setting up Werner in a 4-1 victory over Freiburg – but he looked more like his old self in the recent UEFA Champions League clash with Porto (3-2), scoring as Leipzig registered their first ever European win.

Dribbling, passing and shooting are all part of Forsberg’s formidable arsenal, and he also has a habit of popping up with important goals. Five of his eight Bundesliga strikes have given Leipzig a 1-0 lead, while he managed to score four times from outside the penalty area last season. As with Keita, Leipzig have won every Bundesliga game in which Forsberg has been on target. He is also incredibly effective from set pieces, turning 11 of them into goals in his 37 Bundesliga appearances.

Last season’s runners-up are off to an impressive start again this season, sitting a point off top spot after nine games – and if Forsberg starts to slip through the gears again, they could well be caught up in the title race for a second season running. Bayern – against whom he provided two assists and won a penalty last time out – have been warned.

Forward thinking: Robert Lewandowski vs Timo Werner

Consistency at the highest level is the mark of any true world-class footballer, and Lewandowski has been proving his worth in the Bundesliga for over seven years now. During his prolific spells at Borussia Dortmund and Bayern, the Polish marksman has emerged as one of the best strikers of his generation, and his free-scoring antics show no signs of abating.

The Bayern No. 9 is already up to nine goals in the Bundesliga this term – one behind his perennial rival Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – and he has found the back of the net 27 times in 26 league games during the calendar year, grabbing at least a brace on nine occasions. The 29-year-old has also been firing on all cylinders for his national team, becoming the first European player to score 16 goals in a FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign as Poland secured their place at Russia 2018.

A genuine all-rounder, Lewandowski can score with both feet, has a strong aerial presence, boasts a formidable penalty record and has fired in four direct free-kicks since last December. He has also been lucky enough to avoid serious injury throughout his time in Germany, only missing 11 Bundesliga games since arriving from Poland in 2010. Unsurprisingly, he is the only Bayern player to have started all 14 of their competitive games this term, scoring 13 goals.

Leipzig’s defence will, therefore, have their work cut out this week, but on the flip side they have one of Germany’s most exciting young talents blazing a trail at the other end of the pitch. Werner burst onto the Bundesliga scene after swapping Stuttgart for Leipzig in the summer of 2016, and the 21-year-old looks the player most likely to compete with Lewandowski and Aubameyang for this season’s top scorer’s cannon.

Werner has scored nearly a third of Leipzig’s league goals this season – five out of 16 – in spite of missing several weeks in early October with a neck injury. Last term he became only the third player in Bundesliga history to hit 21 goals in a season, and went on to impress for Germany as they won the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, potentially earning himself a spot in Joachim Löw senior squad for next summer’s main event.

Increasingly clinical and with a devastating turn of pace – he was clocked running at 21.7 miles an hour earlier in the campaign – Werner has already scored twice as many goals in 38 games for Leipzig (26) as he did in 95 for Stuttgart (13), and in September 2016 he became the youngest ever player to reach 100 Bundesliga appearances. If there are to be goals galore at the Red Bull Arena and the Allianz Arena this week, therefore, don’t be surprised if Lewandowski and Werner are the men leading the charge.
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