Bayern Munich are aiming to maintain their healthy lead at the top of the Bundesliga table as they take on RB Leipzig on Saturday.
When Julian Nagelsmann and Domenico Tedesco last met each other back in December 2018, they were respectively regarded as two of the most gifted young managers in world football. While Nagelsmann was still the head coach of TSG Hoffenheim at the time, Tedesco was managing one of the biggest Bundesliga clubs in the form of Schalke.
More than three years later, Nagelsmann and Tedesco are set to lock horns with each other yet again, this time in different colours, as Bayern Munich take on RB Leipzig on Saturday.
The Julian Nagelsmann-led Bayern Munich are comfortably sitting at the top of the Bundesliga table, with a six-point lead over Borussia Dortmund. However, there will be no margin for error when the Bavarians take on Leipzig, knowing a defeat could give Dortmund the opportunity to bridge the gap at the top to just three points.
What makes this tie particularly engaging is the tactical battle between two of the most gifted coaching talents in Germany. While Nagelsmann’s success at Bayern has been well documented, Tedesco, too, deserves credit for his excellent comeback in Germany, especially following his failure at Schalke.
After replacing Jesse Marsch in early December, Tedesco has won five of his seven Bundesliga matches, helping RB Leipzig climb to sixth in the league table. A win this weekend could see them potentially enter the top four, although things won’t be made easier by the Bayern Munich team hoping to register their third win in a row.
Here at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two Bundesliga giants ahead of their blockbuster encounter at the Allianz Arena this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Alphonso Davies won't be back for Bayern Munich until at least April, and Leon Goretzka is unlikely to play in February, according to AZ. #FCBayern
— Ronan Murphy (@swearimnotpaul) February 3, 2022
Bayern Munich are set to remain without the services of Leon Goretzka and Alphonso Davies through injuries. But the majority of star players are available, having all recovered from COVID infections.
Tactically, Julian Nagelsmann has a decision to make. The Bayern coach could opt for a three-man backline that will give him the opportunity to operate with five attackers. However, Leipzig are a far more balanced unit under Tedesco, and with that in mind, the 34-year-old could revert to a back four, with Lucas Hernandez deputising for Davies at left-back.
Benjamin Pavard should occupy his original right-back slot as well, giving Joshua Kimmich the freedom to operate in central midfield. As for his partner in the double-pivot, Nagelsmann has four options in Corentin Tolisso, Jamal Musiala, Marcel Sabitzer and Marc Roca.
Although Tolisso has no future at the club, the Frenchman might be preferred due to his form. His driving runs forward are often useful, especially when wide players like Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane whip in crosses from the flanks.
Speaking of which, the Bayern Munich creative unit should consist of Gnabry, Sane and Thomas Muller. Although the latter is set to occupy the number ten role, it won’t be surprising to see him drifting out wide, allowing Sane to make his runs infield. Nevertheless, the three will be tasked with the responsibility of offering supply for Robert Lewandowski in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Upamecano, Sule, Hernandez; Kimmich, Tolisso; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski
RB Leipzig are dealing with a couple of injury-related absentees of their own in the form of Marcel Halstenberg and Tyler Adams, who is struggling from a thigh problem. Mohamed Simakan was doubtful as well, but he is likely to be in contention to start after a positive MRI result.
2/ Sport 1: “Which aspects are going better under Domenico Tedesco than Jesse Marsch?”
Angeliño: “When it comes to playing style it’s a big difference. With Tedesco we’re enjoying our football more because we’re once again playing the kind of football we like.”
— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) February 4, 2022
Having won all of his matches in 2022, Domenico Tedesco has no reason to shift away from his tried and tested 3-4-2-1 formation that usually incorporates the back-three of Simakan, Willi Orban and the versatile Josko Gvardiol.
The presence of Gvardiol offers extra push to Leipzig’s build-up play, allowing the left wing-back Angelino to operate in a higher role than usual. The Spaniard’s darting crosses from the wider areas could be a major threat for the Bayern Munich defence, especially with the aerial astute Andre Silva spearheading the attack for Leipzig.
Elsewhere in the creative department, Christopher Nkunku is a shoo-in, having been involved in 30 goals in all competitions this term. Alongside the Frenchman, Dani Olmo might get the nod ahead of Dominik Szoboszlai, whereas the physically daunting Yussuf Poulsen is a potential alternative for Silva.
Meanwhile, in the second line of press, the onus will be on the central midfield duo of Konrad Laimer and Kevin Kampl to make life difficult for the Bayern ball-carriers. The right wing-back Lukas Klostermann should also play a vital role in keeping the opposition attackers quiet on the flanks, with the German international expected to operate in a more conservative role.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Simakan, Orban, Gvardiol; Klostermann, Laimer, Kampl, Angelino; Nkunku, Olmo; Silva
- Never before has a club scored more than Bayern Munich’s 65 goals after 20 games of the season, eclipsing the previous record of 58. In all competitions, they have scored 102 goals under former Leipzig coach Nagelsmann, averaging 3.5 goals per game.
- Bayern have won 16 of their 20 Bundesliga games this season and have only twice had more wins at this stage: in 2015/16 (17 wins) and 2013/14 (18), both times under Pep Guardiola.
- Christopher Nkunku has registered nine goals and seven assists this season. He could hit double figures for single-season goals for the first time in his career.
- Leipzig are the only club to have won all four games they have played in 2022. Their recent win over Wolfsburg was their 100th in the Bundesliga, in their 190th game – only Bayern were quicker to a century (185 games).
- RB Leipzig were the last team in 67 Bundesliga matches to stop Bayern from scoring when Nagelsmann was in charge on 9 February 2020.
Player to Watch
RB Leipzig forward Andre Silva is someone worth keeping an eye on in this blockbuster encounter in the Bundesliga. After arriving at Leipzig on the back of a 28-goal season with Eintracht Frankfurt, much was expected from the Portuguese international.
Six months in, it is perhaps safe to say the former AC Milan starlet has not been able to hit the same heights at his new club. However, under the leadership of Tedesco, things are changing for the batter. The forward has netted three goals in his last three Bundesliga matches, showcasing good form in front of goal.
His overall work rate has improved as well, with the player finding it comfortable to play under Tedesco’s more balanced approach. Silva will be hoping to continue his good run of form against the Bayern Munich team he has faced five times in the past. The forward is yet to score a single goal so far and has lost four times, so the Portuguese international certainly has a point to prove this weekend.
Bayern Munich 2-1 RB Leipzig
This is a difficult game to predict as RB Leipzig have been far more resolute and are currently the most in-form team in the division. But they are up against a Bayern side that have thrashed their opposition twice in a row this January, scoring eight times in the last two Bundesliga encounters.
Nevertheless, it promises to be an entertaining affair, with both sides showcasing their offensive prowess. Bayern remain the favourites to secure all three points, but their defences could be rattled by Leipzig’s sharp attack, led valiantly by the likes of Silva and Nkunku.
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