The heroes of Germany's 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup campaign, Timo Werner and Lars Stindl, go head-to-head as RB Leipzig host Borussia Mönchengladbach in the standout game of Matchday 4 on Saturday (kick-off 18:30CEST/16:30GMT).

It would be fair to say that nobody really saw it coming.

When Germany coach Joachim Löw announced his youthful Confederations Cup squad in June - deliberately omitting 2014 FIFA World Cup winners such as Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos and Mesut Özil - reactions ranged from bemusement to outright indignation, with Russia 2018 CEO Alexey Sorokin lamenting the prospect of "the reigning world champions competing without its stars".  

A month later, though, Löw's gamble had paid off, as his relatively inexperienced squad edged two-time Copa America champions Chile in the final in St Petersburg. The winning goal summed up the tournament nicely - Werner nicking the ball off Marcelo Diaz high up the pitch and squaring for Stindl to tap home into an empty net.

Watch: Bulls vs. Foals

Perhaps the surprising thing was that Werner and Stindl's excellent performances might have caught anybody off-guard. The former had just enjoyed a remarkable debut season with Leipzig, netting 21 goals to end the campaign as the highest-scoring German in the Bundesliga, and thereby helping the top-flight newcomers seal a place in the UEFA Champions League at the first time of asking.

Gladbach finished in ninth, but club captain Stindl remained an inspirational figure throughout the season. Originally a midfielder by trade, the 29-year-old proved beyond doubt that he can flourish further up the pitch, notching an impressive 18 goals in all competitions - a far cry from the 23 goals he managed over six Bundesliga campaigns for previous clubs Karlsruhe and Hannover

The two stars of Russia 2017 will now face off as Leipzig - who recovered from an with wins over Freiburg and Hamburg - entertain Gladbach, who have so far beaten Cologne, drawn with Augsburg and lost to Eintracht Frankfurt

Watch: Werner's top five Bundesliga goals

The visitors will certainly have their hands full with Werner, who scored in both Bundesliga outings against them last term: a 1-1 draw at the Red Bull Arena in September, followed by a 2-1 win for Leipzig at Borussia-Park in February. The 21-year-old is currently on red-hot form, having already netted three league goals this season, and three more for Germany in their recent World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Norway.

Since his Stuttgart days Werner has also become far more clinical. In 95 Bundesliga outings with his boyhood club he managed 13 goals, converting around one in 10 of his overall attempts and roughly a third of his major scoring opportunities. Since moving to Leipzig in the summer of 2016, he has streamlined those figures - netting with every fourth shot on goal and converting two-thirds of his clear-cut chances. The result? An impressive return of 24 goals in just 34 Bundesliga games.

Stindl is no less of a threat, and remains just as capable of teeing up his teammates as he is of scoring himself. He provided the assist for Fabian Johnson's equaliser at the Red Bull Arena last season - where the Foals were one of just five Bundesliga teams to avoid defeat - and also set up Denis Zakaria in the recent draw with Augsburg. A pivotal member of the squad, the Gladbach skipper was offered a contract extension in May, and is now tied to the club until 2021.

It's the Bulls against the Foals, the new kids on the block against one of the Bundesliga's most decorated clubs, and it's Werner versus Stindl. You'd be mad to miss it.

Andy Smith  

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