bundesliga

Moussa Diaby and Christopher Nkunku: Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig's formidable French forwards

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Prepare yourself – or better still, let two of the Bundesliga's form players do it for you, since preparation is what RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku and Bayer Leverkusen's Moussa Diaby have been turning into an art form in the German top flight this season.

Preparing goals for their teammates is only part of the overall package that Nkunku and Diaby have been delivering on a weekly basis. What they have also been providing is an array of skills, tricks and turns to wow crowds in Bundesliga stadiums and in front of the TV screen with top-grade talent on the footballing stage.

Watch: Diaby and Nkunku head to head

With 17 goals – already as many as in his previous two Bundesliga seasons combined – and 12 assists, Nkunku has been directly involved in close to half of Leipzig's 64 league goals this season. Only Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller has teed up more goals, and Robert Lewandowski is the only Bundesliga player to have had a hand in more top-flight goals, but not even the champions' legendary duo can match Nkunku's unique feat of boasting double figures in both categories. All that, while giving his team so much more that cannot simply be measured in statistics.

"Christo sacrifices himself," says coach Domenico Tedesco, who has seen his midfielder net 10 times in 2022, a tally surpassed only by Lewandowski (13) league wide. "He works, he sprints, he's very good at counter-pressing and of course has certain qualities in the final third. His finishing is very good with his left and right, he's quick, and has a good first touch."

That latter quality is something the 24-year-old has not only applied when finding the net. While no Leipzig teammate has had more attempts at goal (71) - a league-high three of which have gone in from outside the penalty area - none has teed up more either (57). "It's always been in my DNA," Nkunku told L'Equipe in February 2022. "How many times have people told me recently: 'But why didn't you shoot?' And I always reply, 'Because he was better placed than me.'"

Watch: Nkunku tactical analysis

Having worked on his upper body strength since arriving in Germany from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019, Nkunku is now mightily difficult to knock off the ball, while his electric pace with a top speed of 22mph (35.5 km/h) means when he moves - in and out of possession - defenders find it difficult to get to grips with him.

Unsurprisingly, more often than not they fail. He's been fouled more than any other RBL player (48 times) and won three penalties, that's a league high. Even when he's almost standing still he's dangerous: he's scored twice from direct free-kicks this season, the joint-most of any Bundesliga player.

It's easy to see why Nkunku is the most-used outfield player in the Leipzig squad - he's featured in all 29 league matches, missing out on the starting XI only twice. Not that it's much of a relief to see him on the bench at kick-off: against Mainz on Matchday 18, he scored once and set up two to wrap up the three points, while he struck the only goal of the match when coming on against Bochum on Matchday 24.

Like his former PSG teammate, Diaby, who also swapped the French capital for Germany when he joined Leverkusen in 2019, is enjoying his best season yet in the Bundesliga.

The 22-year-old scored nine times over his first two seasons in the Bundesliga, and he has already eclipsed that in just 27 games of the current term, which have produced 12 goals and nine assists. More than half of those goals (seven) came in a purple patch between Matchday 20 and 24, including his first Bundesliga hat-trick against Augsburg.

He had already shown last season how dangerous he could be by providing 10assists – the most within the Leverkusen squad. His nine so far this term rank him fourth across the division behind Bayern's Müller (16), Nkunku and his Leverkusen teammate Florian Wirtz (10), while only Patrik Schick has been directly involved in as many goals for Die Werkself this term (21).

Watch: Diaby's maiden Bundesliga hat-trick

Like with Nkunku, pace is one of Diaby's main assets. He has hit a sizzling top speed of 22.4mph (36 km/h) this season, helping him in scoring two goals and assisting a further two on the counter-attack. Running with the ball at his feet is another key aspect of his game, and his pace and trickery have enabled him to make 44 per cent of his 85 dribbles this season successful. And he also uses that pace to good effect without the ball too.

"His performance stands out thanks to his two goals, of course," said Leverkusen coach Gerardo Seoane after seeing Diaby find the net twice and set up the other two goals in November's 4-0 UEFA Europa League win over Real Betis. "I would, however, above all like to bring to the fore how he put himself at the service of the team, how many times he tracked back and won possession."

With Nkunku needing on average 81 minutes for each direct involvement in a goal and Diaby 111 minutes following a slight dip in form over the last five matches, you can practically bet on either helping their team find the back of the net once in every game this season - starting with their Matchday 30 encounter at the BayArena. That is nothing short of magnifique!