Can RB Leipzig's iron-clad defence led by Dayot Upamecano keep Marcus Thuram & Co. quiet when Borussia Mönchengladbach visit on Saturday night? Will Marco Rose outwit Julian Nagelsmann? Will Angelino hog the limelight or can Lars Stindl upstage Europe's deadliest defender?
bundesliga.com looks at how the heavyweight duo stack up before they go toe-to-toe at the Red Bull Arena.
When Timo Werner - last season's second-top scorer in the Bundesliga - left Leipzig in the summer, the question was: how would the team replace the Germany international forward's goals? The answer was: they didn't. They simply changed tack.
"The whole mentality of the team is to try to not concede a goal, and of course, it's not a secret that if you do that we already have one point," goalkeeper Peter Gulasci told bundesliga.com. "And I think this is one of the keys to our successful season so far."
As the Hungary international points out, keep your opponents out, and you are certain of getting a positive result. Gulacsi and Co. have kept 11 clean sheets, which means they have stopped the other team scoring in half of their games so far. On all but one occasion - the goalless draw at home to Cologne on Matchday 13 - they have won those games.
Gulacsi has made 46 saves this season - the third-lowest of all frontline Bundesliga 'keepers - and that is thanks in large part to the work of the three-man defence in front of him, marshalled by Upamecano and ably assisted by Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann. Willi Orban has refound the form he showed in Leipzig's early seasons in the top flight, giving coach Julian Nagelsmann options with Ibrahima Konaté sidelined by injury for the majority of the campaign.
While RBL have conceded seven fewer goals at this stage of the season compared to 2019/20, Gladbach have shipped eight more with Rose's men struggling to keep teams at bay. Yann Sommer has had just eight more saves to make than Gulasci, but the Switzerland international has tallied a meagre four clean sheets. "At the moment, a lot of shots are going in, simply because they are hit well," said Sommer, whose side have allowed 286 shots compared to Leipzig's paltry 172.
The Gladbach 'keeper, who had the league's top save percentage last season, may have been unlucky with the Bundesliga's sharpshooters, but his teammates also have to take responsibility.
If stats really don't lie, they do speak volumes for Gladbach's determination. While Leipzig top the Bundesliga's charts for 'Duels Won' and 'Aerial Duels Won', the Foals trail in fifth and ninth respectively. Germany's first-choice centre-back Matthias Ginter and defensive partner Nico Elvedi, who leads the league in passes completed from open play, and their teammates need to grit their teeth and step up.
The 2019/20 focal points of the two sides' attacks could be summed up in two players: Alassane Plea and Werner. Not this time round.
For Leipzig, that is so very true. No fewer than 15 different players have scored for Die Roten Bullen this season, so it is difficult for opponents to know where the threat is coming from. Midfielder Marcel Sabitzer has a team-high five league goals while left wing-back Angelino and centre-back Orban have as many goals as Yussuf Poulsen, the team's Denmark international centre-forward. Right-back Nordi Mukiele has three league strikes, so does attacking midfielder Dani Olmo.
Their most recent victory against Hertha Berlin saw Sabitzer, Mukiele and Orban share the side's three goals among themselves just as they did when Schalke were beaten 3-0 on Matchday 20 while Christopher Nkunku with two and Olmo have the other strikes in the four-game winning streak that has taken Nagelsmann's men to within two points of leaders Bayern Munich.
Gladbach have had 14 different league scorers, though captain Stindl stands out as he has double figures - only six Bundesliga players have found the net more times this term. Midfielders Florian Neuhaus and Jonas Hofmann are next-best at the club with four with Plea and Marcus Thuram, the men whose goals fuelled Gladbach's top-four finish last season, on three each.
That has been a major difference to the club's goal output: Plea had eight and Thuram six after 22 games last season. Thuram might have had more but for his four-match ban following his red card against Hoffenheim on Matchday 13, and Rose needs his France international strike force to increase their scoring rate to get the Foals back in the running for a European place.
If Rose needs advice on how to handle a long goodbye, he could have a quiet word with Nagelsmann on Saturday night. Hoffenheim announced he would be leaving the club a full year before he did, Rose has just a few months to see out at Borussia Park before taking over at Borussia Dortmund. Should be a doddle!
Rose will feel at home in Leipzig simply because he is: he was born there, played there, and started his coaching career with Lokomotiv Leipzig, and his first visit as Gladbach boss should also hold happy memories.
They would have been - if you'll pardon the pun - rosier still if Gladbach had held on to the 2-0 half-time lead they had at the Red Bull Arena on Matchday 20 last season. Two RBL goals, including an Nkunku 89th-minute equaliser, and a Plea red card tarnished the occasion for the visitors, who'd lost the home fixture 3-1 earlier in the campaign with Werner grabbing a hat-trick.
Rose did orchestrate Gladbach's first-ever Bundesliga win over Leipzig thanks to Hannes Wolf's goal on Matchday 6 this season as his 4-2-3-1 outsmarted Nagelsmann's fluid 4-3-1-2 with Olmo a playmaker behind the battering ram front duo of Poulsen and Alexander Sorloth.
Poulsen will likely once again lead the line this weekend, but will have the more subtle skills of Olmo and Nkunku in support with Angelino and Mukiele providing width and pace in a 3-4-2-1; Leipzig's main concern is likely how to keep Stindl quiet in the Gladbach No.10 role, and shackling the returning Thuram, who is in line to make his first start in four league games after knee problems.
"They're two teams who work very much in the same way: they try to play proactive football and not wait. Both teams try to take the game in hand. It'll certainly be an interesting game," said Nagelsmann before pitting his wits against Rose, a close friend, again. "I'm sure Marco has an idea of how to beat us, we have one of how to beat him. I hope we'll be the more successful and the happier of the two come Saturday evening."
The midfield duel
For Nagelsmann's smile to be the broader of the two, he will need his midfield duo to take control of the game. While Tyler Adams is likely to have the role of keeping Stindl in check, Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl will be the lungs, the legs and the heart of the hosts' challenge.
Kampl missed the win over Hertha, but should return to the starting XI to provide his industry to the team effort and give Sabitzer the freedom to push further up the pitch. That will reinforce the team's goal threat, something the Austria international has done all season, most recently with that devastating blockbuster of a strike against Hertha.
Christoph Kramer, who shares Solingen as his home town with Kampl, is Gladbach's equivalent of the Slovenia international, even if he is required to play more of a defensive role given Rose opts for just two men in front of the back four.
The experience of the 2014 FIFA World Cup winner has helped underpin Gladbach, and has hugely impressed his coach. "He has kicked on this season and has really taken a step forward with the start of the Champions League," said Rose in late January. "He has really shown why he was on the pitch in a World Cup final and why he's a world champion."
When Neuhaus signed a three-year contract extension through to 2024 last season, Kramer said the club deserved praise for tying up the hugely promising Germany international. At 23, there is still more to come from Neuhaus, who has four goals and as many assists in the Bundesliga this season - Gladbach fans will be hoping Saturday's test against one of the best midfields in European football will help him take another step up.
The trump cards
"If someone believes in you so much, plays you every week, you have to repay them." That's Angelino on Nagelsmann, who has started the Spain U21 international in all but one of Leipzig's Bundesliga games so far, and the former Manchester City man has been as good as his word.
Watch: Analysis of Leipzig's high-flying wing-back
Encouraged to use his skills in an attacking left-wing-back role, Angelino has made a mockery of being labelled 'a defender' by tallying eight goals and nine assists, including four and four in those respective categories in the Bundesliga, this season.
The 24-year-old's contribution in the opposition final third has been worth eight points to his team: remove that, and Leipzig would be in fifth place right now, three points off a top-four finish and a place in next season's UEFA Champions League.
"He embodies the sort of player I love, because he can play in several positions," Nagelsmann explained. "He's heading towards being world-class."
At 32, many would have thought Stindl's best years were behind him, but the Gladbach captain is as evergreen as his club's colours. His tally of 10 goals is already second only to the 11 he got in 2016/17 - his second season at Borussia Park - and that tally came from 30 top-flight appearances. He's made just 22 this season during which he's also registered five league assists. And for those who think the former Germany international's legs might have gone: with 7.5 miles covered on average per game, no Gladbach player runs more.
Watch: Stindl snatches Gladbach a point at Frankfurt
Though he admitted he and his teammates were "a bit disappointed" with news Rose would be joining Dortmund in the summer, there is no hint Stindl will be putting in less effort through to the end of the season. "The coach is ambitious enough to want to achieve the maximum," he said. "Regardless of him, we players are just as ambitious."
"From Lars Stindl's point of view, it makes no sense to invest less now or to lose games on purpose because Marco Rose is going to Dortmund," noted Nagelsmann. "Because Marco Rose will then no longer have to pay for it, Lars Stindl will." Stindl will try to ensure Nagelsmann's men are the ones paying for it on Saturday.