Bayer Leverkusen vs. RB Leipzig: How do they stack up?
With both Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig pushing to secure a top-four finish and UEFA Champions League football next season, bundesliga.com runs the rule over where Sunday's clash at the BayArena could be won or lost.
Patrik Schick vs. Christopher Nkunku
While Leverkusen welcomed their top scorer back from injury on Matchday 29, Leipzig's leader in attack was adding yet another goal and assist to his tally.
Nkunku now has 17 league strikes and 12 provisions to his name this term and the Frenchman has been his team's main creative spark as Die Roten Bullen have moved to within a point of Die Werkself with five games to go.
Watch: The evolution of Nkunku
Schick - on 20 goals and second behind just Robert Lewandowski (32) in the league's scoring ranks - is one of only two players with more Bundesliga goals to their name than Nkunku in 2021/22 and his return is a timely one as Leverkusen look to hold off the charge of their Matchday 30 visitors.
The Czech striker has gone 102 minutes without scoring since coming back from injury as the 26-year-old was first a late sub in the 2-1 win over Hertha Berlin and then started the 0-0 draw with Bochum last time out.
Meanwhile, Nkunku has scored 10 times and provided seven assists across his last 12 top-flight outings in 2022 alone. And whoever can outscore the other this weekend is most likely to have a decisive impact on the result in both this match and the top-four battle.
Watch: All of Schick’s goals this season
Gerardo Seoane vs. Domenico Tedesco
Another contest to keep your eyes on takes place in the dugouts, where two of the division's leading candidates for Coach of the Year go head to head.
Seoane, in his first season in the Bundesliga, has been immensely impressive in restoring Leverkusen to a free-scoring team - whose blank against Bochum was their first of the campaign - competing right at the very top end of the table after sneaking into the top six on the final day of last season.
It's been no easy feat considering the club's awful luck with injuries that has seen the seasons of Florian Wirtz, Amine Adli, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jeremie Frimpong all ended prematurely, while injury also robbed Seoane of Schick's services for seven matchdays.
There have been statement wins over Borussia Dortmund and Leipzig for Seoane, who also took a point off leaders Bayern Munich, while Tedesco's impact has been even more impressive since the 36-year-old returned to Germany in December.
Tedesco's 2.2 points per game record from 15 Bundesliga fixtures trumps Seoane's 1.79 and the former Erzgebirge Aue and Schalke boss has lifted Leipzig from 11th to within a win of taking third as the campaign comes to a dramatic conclusion.
The German-Italian has Die Roten Bullen on the charge at both ends of the pitch once more. They are now scoring more (2.6 goals per game) and conceding far fewer (0.87) than they did under predecessor Jesse Marsch in the first 14 matches of the campaign (1.8 scored; 1.3 conceded).
And he’s completely turned around their away form ahead of their trip to the BayArena. Leipzig’s sole slip-up in six league games on the road in 2022 was at Bayern. Otherwise it’s five wins, with 21 goals scored. RB had managed just four points and only scored five goals in eight away matches before the winter break.
Watch: How Tedesco has turned Leipzig’s season around
Two of 2022's most in-form sides
Leipzig's stunning turnaround that has unfolded since Tedesco took the reins from Marsch has almost exclusively played out since the turn of the new year.
Their 29 points - from nine wins, two draws and just one defeat - in 2022 are three more than leaders Bayern and Dortmund in second and third in the calendar-year table respectively.
It has been a stunning few months for Leipzig, who have also scored more goals (34) and conceded fewer times (nine) than any other team in the top flight from January to April thus far.
And it's not been a bad 12-game Rückrunde for Leverkusen either, who boast the fourth best return in the league with 24 points, and won four out of six (W4, D1, L1) at the BayArena in 2022. Again, they have had to do much of that without talismen Wirtz and Schick.
That home record has a stern test ahead, against a Leipzig outfit with that almost perfect away form this year that includes a 4-1 win at Dortmund and 6-1 victory over Greuther Fürth in their two most recent away games.
Third best attack vs. Second best defence
Leverkusen have taken the 'attack is the best for of defence' approach to much of this campaign, and their 68-goal haul after 29 games is behind only Dortmund (70) and Bayern (86), while Leipzig (64) place fourth in a direct reflection of the top-four. It is also Die Werkself’s second best tally ever at this stage of a Bundesliga season.
Leipzig rate even higher when it comes to the league's best defensive records, coming in behind only Bayern (29), with just 31 goals conceded as it stands.
That puts Leipzig's goal difference on +33 and, again, only Bayern (+57) are more in the red, while Leverkusen (+26) are the ones that this time place fourth. And that’s what it could well come down to in this very tight European race.
Whatever way you look at it, this game should be a fascinating one as two of the best and most exciting sides in Germany set about laying claim to third and putting an early marker down on their status as genuine contenders in next season's title race.
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