Having finished third in the Bundesliga last season and with Julian Nagelsmann at the helm, RB Leipzig might well fancy their chances of dethroning Bayern Munich in 2019/20.
bundesliga.com weighs up five reasons why they could end up as champions…
1) The Nagelsmann factor
There’s one big reason why some observers – including Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus – are tipping Leipzig to be title challengers this season. That, of course, is Nagelsmann, who left Hoffenheim over the close season to replace Ralf Rangnick as head coach.
Nagelsmann became the youngest permanent head coach in Bundesliga history when he took charge of Hoffenheim at the age of 28, and he somehow saved them from relegation before guiding them to back-to-back top-four finishes. He led the Sinsheim club into the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history as well, and the obvious next step for him is to win some silverware.
The 32-year-old responded positively to Rangnick’s suggestion that he should be targeting titles with Leipzig, and more recently he said that his new club were “already in a position to challenge Bayern.”
Nagelsmann went unbeaten in his first three games against the record German champions so – with some major resources at his disposal – he will be confident of upsetting them again.
Watch: Nagelsmann, a revolutionary coach
2) They already have the best defence
Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulasci kept a brilliant 16 clean sheets in 33 Bundesliga matches last season, and his team conceded only 29 goals in 34 games overall. That was three fewer than champions Bayern and 15 fewer than runners-up Dortmund, so the conditions are in place for Leipzig to build on rock-solid foundations.
Hugely talented French defenders Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate are still only 20 but have another year’s experience behind them, while European U21 Championship runner-up Lukas Klostermann will look to build on the form that saw him earn his first senior cap for Germany in March.
3) They weren’t that far away last season
While all the focus last year was on whether Dortmund could hold on to pip Bayern to the title, Leipzig flew under the radar to finish a comfortable third. Quietly impressive, Ragnick’s men were only 12 points behind Bayern and 10 behind Dortmund in the end. They might even have been closer had they not – with a Champions League place already secured – eased off to pick up just two points from nine in their last three games.
Leipzig lost only six league matches all season, ambushed by Dortmund on the opening day and losing a tight game in the reverse fixture. They lost to a late Franck Ribery goal against Bayern in Munich in December, and after their 1-0 home defeat against Dortmund on 19 January they went unbeaten until a final-day reverse at Werder Bremen.
They were defeated just once at home, and a stable side has now been bolstered by some new additions – with Nagelsmann hoping to provide the X-factor to bridge the gap to the top two.
4) Goals galore
In Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen, Leipzig had two of the top 10 goalscorers in last season’s Bundesliga. Germany international Werner finished with 16 league goals and seven assists, and also netted three times during his team’s run to the DFB Cup final – where they were beaten by Bayern.
Poulsen, meanwhile, enjoyed his most prolific year to date, with the Dane just behind Werner in the scoring charts after rippling the net 15 times in the top flight.
Twenty-year-old Brazilian Matheus Cunha will be looking to push on as well, all the more so given that Ademola Lookman – who scored five goals in 11 appearances during his first spell at Leipzig – has now joined on a permanent deal from Everton.
Watch: Werner's Bundesliga mixtape
5) Squad depth
Leipzig’s recruitment policy is no doubt the envy of many clubs, and over the winter they were already craftily planning for the 2019/20 campaign. Energetic central midfielders Tyler Adams and Amadou Haidara have had six months to acclimatise, although United States international Adams has more recently been working hard to shake off a troublesome groin injury.
More young talents have arrived over the summer, with Ampadu and Lookman joined by Paris Saint-Germain attacker Christopher Nkunku, Brazilian full-back Luan Candido, and former Hannover goalkeeper Philipp Tschauner.
Austrian attacker Hannes Wolf picked up a nasty injury at the European U21 Championship over the summer, but he too looks an exciting signing. He put in some hugely impressive displays for Salzburg in last season’s UEFA Europa League – including in two games against Leipzig.
Aside from 33-year-old Tschauner, the newcomers may be young but all of them are gifted, hungry and highly sought-after players. With Bruma the only notable departure, Leipzig now have the numbers and the quality needed to fight on several fronts – and perhaps to last the course in a title race.