Where will Saturday's heavyweight encounter between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig be won and lost? - © DFL
Where will Saturday's heavyweight encounter between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig be won and lost? - © DFL

Where will Bayern Munich's clash with RB Leipzig be won and lost?


Bayern Munich welcome nearest challengers RB Leipzig to the Allianz Arena on Saturday with the winners guaranteed to conclude Matchday 10 at the top of the table, but what are the keys to victory for either side?

Robert Lewandowski vs. Dayot Upamecano

How to stop Robert Lewandowski? It's a question that's been asked far more times than it's been successfully answered. The former Borussia Dortmund serial scorer may have turned 32 in August, but Bundesliga opponents will be fully aware the Poland international still has big ambitions, not the least of which is to be crowned European champion with his wife, Anna, in the stadium this time.

"The Champions League was his big dream. And we were really happy with him," said Mrs. Lewandowska, whose nutritional advice has helped make her hubby such a potent performer.

"But it was also a bit sad because we couldn't be with him in Lisbon. That's why I said to him: 'You have to win the Champions League again!'"

While Anna makes sure Robert cannot always have his cake and eat it off the pitch, he has feasted greedily on it. He headed the Bundesliga's scorers in 2019/20 with 34 goals, the highest tally ever by a foreign-born player, finishing top of the chart for the fifth time in his career. To reach that mark, he netted 12 times in his first eight league games of the season, exactly the same total as he has from the 2020/21 campaign.

Watch: Lewandowski vs. Upamecano

Upamecano has broken into the France team - the reigning world champions, let's not forget - thanks to his fabulous 2019/20 in which he played a significant role in Leipzig boasting the second-best defensive record behind Bayern.

His stratospheric 91 per cent pass completion was a cornerstone of Julian Nagelsmann's gameplan of building from the back, and he's continued in the same vein this term. But can he keep Lewandowski quiet?

The Bayern man had the luxury of being rested for his team's UEFA Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid while Upamecano played all 90 minutes of the goal feast that was Basaksehir 3 RB Leipzig 4.

But while 'Lewy' will be fresher, the Leipzig defender, who is a decade younger, will surely not struggle to recover. The same goes if Lewandowski gets in behind him with Upamecano able to catch up with blistering pace: he's the second-fastest player in the Bundesliga this season after being clocked at nearly 22 miles an hour.

Lewandowski, however, needs only half the opportunities that mere football mortals require to score a goal, and has netted seven in nine competitive games against Leipzig in his career. He's not scored in the last three against Die Roten Bullen though - is he overdue? Or is that Upamecano getting the upper hand?

Benjamin Pavard vs. Angelino

While the contest across the Allianz Arena pitch will be intriguing, nowhere will it be more hotly contested than on the Bayern right/Leipzig left.

'Sensational' is the only word to describe Angelino's 2020/21 form. The on-loan Manchester City man - normally a left-back - has excelled further up the pitch, plundering six goals and racking up three assists in all competitions, including four strikes in just nine Bundesliga games.

"In the past, I have scored goals rather infrequently," said the Spain U21 international, who had found the net just five times in senior football in his whole career prior to this season. "Above all, our attack-minded style of play suits me very well. I am more attack-minded than before."

Watch: Angelino - Analysis of RB Leipzig's high-flying wing-back

Anyone who saw THAT goal for France against Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup knows Pavard is no stranger to hitting the back of the net. The former Stuttgart man's attacking urges have been restricted, however, this season as he focusses on his 'day job' of keeping the ball out of the back of the net.

In that regard, Angelino has the upper hand as Leipzig have conceded just six times in nine games, while Bayern have let in 13. The champions have, however, scored almost twice as many: 31 to 18.

The question will be whether Angelino will have the opportunity to roam forward quite so freely knowing Bayern's free-scoring forwards are lurking in the space behind him, and if Pavard comes upfield to join them, he will be pinned back still more.

Bayern Munich right-back Benjamin Pavard likes to contribute at both ends of the pitch. - Florian Ulrich/Florian Ulrich/Jan Huebner/Pool

On the other hand, that will open up counter-attacking opportunities for the Spaniard too, and he's proven himself quite handy when it comes to exploiting those this season…

Manuel Neuer vs. Yussuf Poulsen

"Manu has been playing sensationally for over a year," coach Hansi Flick said. "With him, the goal for the striker is getting smaller and smaller. He is in the form of his life. He is an insane professional and very focused on his job."

Like Lewandowski, the argument can very easily be made that Neuer - who'll turn 35 in March - is playing the best football of his career. And when you think about what he's done already, that's quite a statement.

The Germany captain has been as solid as ever between the posts for the 2019/20 treble winners after playing a major part in that historic success, notably with some crucial stops in the UEFA Champions League final against Paris Saint-Germain.

Watch: Yussuf Poulsen scores a beauty against Frankfurt

But can Poulsen find a way past the man who has been such an immovable object for so long?

The Denmark striker certainly has the determination having helped drag Leipzig from German football's third tier to the top flight since joining them in 2013. This season, he's also shown there is considerable silk to go with his Scandinavian steel, notably with the deft finish that earned his side a point at Frankfurt on Matchday 8.

That's one of three goals Poulsen has netted in just seven Bundesliga appearances this season - it took him 13 top-flight games to reach the same tally last term, while he also scored the opening goal in Leipzig's breathless midweek win in Istanbul. His confidence will be high, and he'll need all the self-belief he can muster to beat Bayern's glovemeister.

Thomas Müller vs. Tyler Adams

Veteran Bayern star who played the best football of his career in 2019/20. Sound familiar? What is true for Lewandowski and Neuer is most certainly true for Müller.

The 31-year-old set a Bundesliga assists record last term, and had a large hand in helping Lewandowski rack up such an impressive goal haul. "It's easier with Thomas next to me," noted the grateful striker.

Thomas Müller's sensational form over the last 12 months has given everyone at Bayern Munich reason to smile. - DFL

Defining Müller's position has always been difficult, even the man himself admits, "I'm a mix between a striker and a midfielder." And just like last season, when he added eight goals to his record 21 assists, he's doing a fabulous impression of being both once again.

Four goals and six assists have come in his first nine Bundesliga games this season, and he found the net to earn Bayern a point in Madrid to embellish the three goals he has set up in the UEFA Champions League group stage this term.

"I like to be active in the space in behind the opposition's midfield. That's where I can hurt the opponent most of all," admits Müller, and that's exactly where Adams comes in.

The 21-year-old USMNT rising star has played in a number of positions for Leipzig, including centre-back earlier this season, but there is little doubt - as Adams himself states - his best position is as a defensive midfielder.

Tyler Adams has played in a host of different positions at RB Leipzig - proving to be a key man for Julian Nagelsmann. - imago images

His non-stop harrying makes life nightmarish for the opposition's creative players, and the fact he averages more than 7.2 miles a game suggests Müller can expect no let-up in the pressure from the former New York Red Bulls prodigy from kick-off to the full-time whistle.

If the Bayern man can escape Adams' suffocating press with his big-game smarts, or whether the New York-state native can keep Müller shackled for the whole 90 minutes could well decide which team comes out on top.