Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku (l-r.) have been in inspirational form for Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig this season. - © KH via images/Karina Hessland
Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku (l-r.) have been in inspirational form for Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig this season. - © KH via images/Karina Hessland

Bayer Leverkusen vs. RB Leipzig: Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku in a battle for the Champions League


Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku share a common past, and will lock horns to secure a UEFA Champions League future when Bayer Leverkusen host RB Leipzig.

With Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund already mathematically assured of European football next season, and involved in a battle for the title, two of Germany's berths at European football's top table next season would appear to have been assigned already, leaving two more still up for grabs.

Heading into Matchday 30, those two places are currently occupied by Leverkusen on 52 points and Leipzig on 51, but with Freiburg just three points adrift of Die Roten Bullen, the last word in this particular race may not be spoken until the final day of the season.

Watch: Diaby vs. Nkunku - a friendly rivalry

Both Leverkusen and Leipzig are in excellent form, with Sunday's hosts managing to cope with major losses such as those of Florian Wirtz and Jeremie Frimpong to hold onto third position, with the fourth-best record of all clubs in the second half of the season. Yet Leipzig top that particular chart, with more points (29) than any other Bundesliga side in 2022, having also scored the most goals (34) and conceded the fewest (nine).

Much of both teams' respective good form can be placed at the feet of two players who both came through the youth ranks at Paris Saint-Germain, and lifted the Ligue 1 title together in the French capital before moving to the Bundesliga. That move has proven to be a successful one too, with Diaby and Nkunku both breaking into the France squad thanks to their outstanding performances at club level – in particular this season.

Nkunku has 17 goals and 12 assists in the Bundesliga this season – the only player to be in double figures on both accounts. The 24-year-old also took his total number of goals this season to 30 thanks to his brace in Leipzig's 2-0 win over Atalanta in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League. Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (38) and PSG's Kylian Mbappe (31) are the only two other Frenchman to exceed 30 goals in all competitions this term.

Watch: Nkunku named Player of the Month for third time

Diaby is not far behind either, with his 12 goals and nine assists contributing significantly to Die Werkself's excellent season, with both having had a hand in more goals this season than in any of their previous campaigns in Germany.

Speed is certainly of the essence in the way they play too, with both having burst through the 35km/h (21.75 mph) barrier and made some of the most sprints across the Bundesliga, yet they manage to combine this breakneck pace with sublime close control and dribbling ability.

"He's one of those players who you can tell is loving his football and has that edge to be able to do something extraordinary," said Leipzig coach Domenico Tedesco of Nkunku. His opposite number Gerardo Seoane had similarly warm words to describe Diaby, saying he is "a player who, given his potential and given he is still so young, is always going to have the chance to raise that bar further and further."

The main difference between the two is in their positioning. While Diaby operates predominantly out wide, Nkunku has spent most of his time this season in a more central position, either in support of the strikers or up top himself for Leipzig.

No matter where they play, though, you can expect Diaby and Nkunku to be out to make the difference on Sunday, when Leverkusen and Leipzig seek an edge in the race for Champions League football next season.