Four barnstorming Bundesliga meetings between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig have already thrown up no fewer than 17 goals, with Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner on target seven times between them. So far it's three wins for the record champions and one for the Saxony newcomers, and there are likely to be more fireworks when they go head-to-head again at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
Confidence should be running high in both camps, after Bayern swept to a 4-0 win in Hannover on Saturday and Leipzig romped to a 4-1 victory at home to Mainz on Sunday. Before a clash which could see both teams end the day on the podium, bundesliga.com takes a closer look at the men who could make the difference in Bavaria…
1) The sharpshooters: Robert Lewandowski vs. Timo Werner
Two of the deadliest marksmen in the Bundesliga, Lewandowski and Werner are likely to take centre stage when they renew their goalscoring rivalry at the Allianz, and the winner of this particular battle may well decide the winner full stop.
The Pole currently leads their head-to-head in this fixture, having netted four times in four games – including a brace in the remarkable 5-4 win on the penultimate day in 2016/17. The 30-year-old is firing on all cylinders in the current campaign, with a remarkable tally of 22 goals in 22 outings making him Europe's leading scorer in all competitions – as well as the first man in the continent's top five leagues to hit the 20-goal mark this term. Leipzig will have no problem identifying the chief danger man on Wednesday, but whether they can stop him adding to his 10 league goals this season is another matter.
Werner has netted three times in his four league games against Bayern, slotting in the winner in his side's historic first victory over the Bavarian giants in March 2018. Even if the 22-year-old has a rather unhappy record against Germany's biggest club – he has lost nine of 10 games against them in all competitions, and has never scored at the Allianz – he has also hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, with braces against Borussia Mönchengladbach and Mainz moving him into double figures alongside Lewandowski. Remarkably, all 10 of his goals this season have come in pairs, after he also doubled up against Hannover, Nuremberg and Hertha Berlin.
2) The defensive rocks: Niklas Süle vs. Dayot Upamecano
Süle and Upamecano are two of the best young defenders anywhere in the world, let alone the Bundesliga, but they will still have their work cut out as they assume the sizeable task of keeping Werner and Lewandowski quiet.
Slowly but surely, Süle is emerging as Bayern's first-choice centre-back ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning pair of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, the bedrock on which the club's most recent successes have been built. The 23-year-old colossus has featured in all but one league game this season, playing more minutes (1,195) than Boateng (900) or Hummels (606), and contesting by far the most challenges (167). He has won nearly 70 per cent of those duels, while his pass completion rate of 94.7 per cent is matched only by Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel. Strong in the tackle and boasting an impressive turn of pace for a big man, Süle has helped Bayern to the fourth-best defensive record in the league.
Upamecano has fared even better, with Leipzig currently topping the Bundesliga defensive charts with just 14 goals conceded in 15 matches. The France U21 international only turned 20 in October 2018, but already possesses the ability, charisma and experience of a player in his prime. Alongside defensive partners Ibrahima Konate and Willi Orban he has helped Leipzig to resist all comers – no team in the Bundesliga has won more challenges this term – and Upamecano has become the first-choice centre-back of the trio, even ahead of club captain Orban. All in all, it was no great surprise to see him finish 10th in the recent Golden Boy 2018 standings for the best players under the age of 21 in Europe.
3) The keepers: Manuel Neuer vs. Peter Gulacsi
Neuer may be a strong candidate for the best goalkeeper of all time, but in the current season it's Gulacsi who is statistically the safest pair of hands in the Bundesliga.
The Bayern custodian has been in a league of his own for many years, helping his club to conquer six Bundesliga titles since his arrival from Schalke in 2011. He was also a key member of Germany's World Cup winning team in 2014, having revolutionised the position with his unrivalled 'sweeper-keeper' abilities. Still only 32, Neuer remains one of the very best in the business and has recovered from a rough patch earlier in the campaign with back-to-back clean sheets against Nuremberg (3-0) and Hannover (4-0).
Gulacsi has neither Neuer's reputation nor his aura, yet the Hungary No.1 has been quietly excelling in the league this season, keeping a Bundesliga-high seven clean sheets in 15 appearances. As well as conceding the fewest goals (14) in the division he also boasts a save ratio of over 75 per cent, and has proven particularly adept at preventing opposition strikers from scoring major chances. Leipzig may well be wondering if their UEFA Europa League campaign would have gone better if they had left the 28-year-old between the sticks instead of blooding second keeper Yvon Mvogo.
4) The best supporting acts: Serge Gnabry vs. Yussuf Poulsen
If Lewandowski and Werner are the standout performers in attack for Bayern and Leipzig, 'wingmen' Gnabry and Poulsen have been doing more than their fair share in a supporting role.
After successful seasons with Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim, Gnabry now seems to be coming into his own at Bayern, with four goals and two assists in his last five Bundesliga outings. The 23-year-old attacker – a member of the club's 'Class of '95' along with Süle, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka – was particularly inspired against former club Bremen, scoring both of Bayern's goals at the Weserstadion. He is also emerging as a key figure for the Germany national side, having already notched four goals in five international appearances for Die Mannschaft.
Poulsen has made a sizeable contribution as Leipzig have climbed to fourth in the table, just two points behind Bayern going into Wednesday's encounter. The Denmark forward is up to eight goals for the campaign, one fewer than he managed throughout the whole of his two previous Bundesliga seasons. With braces against Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen, the 24-year-old has also shown that he's not afraid of the big occasions. Leipzig's record appearance maker is set to play his 200th competitive game for the club against Bayern, and will be hoping to make it a memorable milestone in Munich.
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