On your marks, get set, go! Fellow speedsters Timo Werner and Jadon Sancho face off when RB Leipzig host Borussia Dortmund. - © getty/ DFL
On your marks, get set, go! Fellow speedsters Timo Werner and Jadon Sancho face off when RB Leipzig host Borussia Dortmund. - © getty/ DFL

Marco Reus, Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and the men to decide RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund

Prepare to take a walk on the wild side as untamed top-four wannabes RB Leipzig enter the lion's den with Bundesliga top dogs Borussia Dortmund on Saturday (kick-off 6:30pm CET/5:30pm GMT/12:30pm ET).

Game-keeper's hat in hand, bundesliga.com weighs up the fantastic beasts whose animal instinct could win the day...

The predators: Timo Werner vs. Paco Alcacer

If Dortmund's defensive line falls even a hair's breadth out of joint at the Red Bull Arena, Timo Werner will be the first to profit. Leipzig's gazelle-like leading scorer only needs a fraction of an opening to inflict maximum damage on opposition defences, and comes with the added warning of being the Bundesliga's most trigger-happy forward this season. He's converted 11 of his league-leading 64 attempts on goal, with all but one of his strikes coming in twos. Suffice to say BVB coach Lucien Favre will urging his spring chickens not to let the fox in the coop.

Speaking of penalty box predators, Dortmund's Paco Alcacer is a master of preying on the weak and defenceless. The former Barcelona front man tops the scoring charts ahead of Werner at the halfway stage, despite taking in just 502 minutes of Bundesliga football, spread over 12 appearances. He's only started five, skulking from his den to score a record-breaking 10 of his 12 goals from the bench. Paco-man might not lead his sleuth from the outset, but he tends to strike the decisive blow.

Watch: Paco Alcacer - a Bundesliga supersub like no other

The bullocks: Dayot Upamecano vs. Abdou Diallo

From the Bundesliga plains to the bullring, Dayot Upamecano has the job of taking down Dortmund's Spanish matador - within the rules of the game, of course. Happily, the 20-year-old Frenchman isn't prone to seeing red - even if Leipzig are third in the table for most fouls after 17 matches. He's only been sent off once in his Bundesliga career, and - averaging 69 per cent for attempted aerial challenges won - is as precise as he is precocious. Leipzig, meanwhile, have only lost three and conceded 13 on his watch.

Churning up turf and devouring opposition in equal measure, Abdou Diallo has had a very meaty hand (or foot) in Dortmund's table-topping exploits. The Frenchman has missed just four matches - one through suspension and three through injury - for a BVB side with the joint-meanest defence in the division (18 goals conceded). He's not won quite so many challenges as Upamecano, but he does boast pass completion stats more in keeping with a deep-lying midfielder and he scored in the Matchday 3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Who needs a forager when you can have the whole hog?

Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano and Dortmund's Abdou Diallo could one day line up together for France. - getty

The wild things: Marco Reus & Jadon Sancho vs. Marcel Sabitzer & Emil Forsberg

Those yowls and growls would be mere whimpers without the ingenuity of leader-of-the-pack Marco Reus and England-reared Jadon Sancho. Dortmund's wolfish duo have produced 31 of BVB's league-best 44 goals this season, sending even the most seasoned of Bundesliga vultures into a tailspin - accounting for, among others, Leipzig, defending champions Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Solo or group hunts, Messrs Reus and Sancho float like a butterfly, sting like a bee and will happily sink their teeth into anyone that gets in their way.

Leipzig's wild cats of the wing have been a touch more sedated, but that's not to say they don't bite. In the absence of the lesser-spotted Emil Forsberg, who could return on Matchday 18 following a nagging groin injury that has restricted him to just six Bundesliga appearances (one goal, two assists) all season, Marcel Sabitzer has put in some industrious shifts. As well as taking a chunk out of Nuremberg with a brace on Matchday 7, the Austrian has also laid on goals against Fortuna Düsseldorf (1-1), Bayer Leverkusen (3-0) and Gladbach (2-0).

Watch: Sancho and Reus helped Dortmund end 2018 with a win over Gladbach

The tough cookies: Diego Demme vs. Axel Witsel

Diego Demme and Axel Witsel are not ones to be caught like deers in the headlights, either. Demme is the undisputed work horse of the Bundesliga kingdom, having covered more ground than any other player in the German top flight this term (129 miles). The tireless midfield stallion has started every league game under Ralf Rangnick, chipped in with two assists, assumed the captain's armband on six occasions and only been booked four times. He may be small (5'5"), but so too are some of nature's most dangerous mammals.

Deceptive looks certainly don't apply to Witsel. With his lion's mane of a coiffure, the Belgian is as powerful in heart and mind as the proverbial King of the Jungle itself. He's beefed up BVB's once soft centre and reinstilled a fighting spirit not seen since the days of Jürgen Klopp's back-to-back-title-winning troupe. He also has majesty to go with the muscle, highlighted by his match-winning assist for Alcacer against Bayern in Der Klassiker. To quote Zlatan Ibrahimovic, "Lions don't compare themselves with humans."

Watch: A tactical analysis of Leipzig vs. Dortmund

Chris Mayer-Lodge

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