Bayern Munich’s trip to RB Leipzig pits not only two of the best Bundesliga sides against each other, but also two of its brightest young talents in Jamal Musiala and Xavi Simons. Here, bundesliga.com takes a look at how the duo compare ahead of the encounter.
There promises to be plenty of intriguing battles when Bayern and Leipzig line-up, but Xavi and Musiala’s struggle for midfield supremacy could well be the most captivating. Even at the age of 20, both players are integral parts of their respective squads, and can each decide a game on their own terms.
The departure of Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona left a goalscoring void at the Allianz Arena and, while he was never going to be able to match the Pole’s barely believable output, Musiala showed he knows exactly where the back of the net is.
Only Serge Gnabry (14) scored more Bundesliga goals for the champions than his younger teammate’s 12, while the Stuttgart native racked up 10 league assists, a number bettered only by Raphael Guerreiro (12) and Randal Kolo Muani (11). As such, he was one of only two players plying their trade in the German top flight to score and assist at least 10 each, and his 89th-minute strike against Cologne on the final day of the campaign ultimately clinched the Meisterschale.
Watch: Musiala's winner vs. Cologne - May's Bundesliga Goal of the Month
Xavi, meanwhile, turned out for PSV Eindhoven in his homeland last term, and it is fair to say he also enjoyed an impressive campaign. PSV were not quite able to win the title, finishing in second seven points adrift of champions Feyenoord, but the midfielder topped the division’s goalscoring charts with 19 efforts and created a further eight.
He set off at a terrific pace, scoring six times in his opening four matches, and never looked back as he cemented his status as one of Dutch and European football’s most exciting prospects. Success in the Dutch Cup final, which PSV won on penalties against Ajax, was the cherry on top of a fantastic 10 months. His performances in the Netherlands convinced Paris Saint-Germain to re-sign Xavi before sending him on loan to Leipzig.
The early weeks of this campaign have been difficult for Musiala – perhaps, even, the first real testing period of a career that has otherwise been rise after rise. Injury issues have reduced him to just one Bundesliga start and a grand total of 113 minutes in the league, while he has contributed to only one goal so far, an assist for Gnabry against Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League. Still, the marauding run and composed pass for his teammate was an example of what Musiala, at his best, is all about – a dribbling maestro with plenty of end product.
In contrast, Xavi has hit the ground running since signing off on his short-term switch to Saxony. The Netherlands international impressed on his debut as Leipzig defeated Bayern 3-0 in the Supercup – a game in which Musiala played the full 90 minutes – and has only gone from strength to strength since then.
His Bundesliga debut the following week ended in a 3-2 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, but Die Roten Bullen have won all six of their subsequent matches in all competitions, with Xavi netting three goals and assisting four more in the German top flight. In terms of the latter of those two statistics, he leads the way in the division, and has already developed into a leader for Marco Rose’s side. The visit of Bayern to the Red Bull Arena provides him with another opportunity to show the full array of his talents.
How do they play?
Both are midfielders, but each approaches football in different ways. Although Musiala has played across the front line and the midfield, he is most comfortable in the number 10 role, which allows him to drop deep and pick up the ball before pushing forward.
His technique and quick feet give him the ability to beat defenders with apparent ease – he was closed down 664 times last season in the Bundesliga, a clear league-high, and yet managed to beat the pressure in 65% of situations - and once he gets into dangerous positions, he is often decisive. At times criticised for holding on to the ball for too long before bringing others in to play, the youngster was still amongst the top 10 players amongst last year’s German elite in terms of chances created.
Trying to determine Xavi’s best position is challenging and, while that can occasionally be a negative, he uses it to his advantage. During his career, he has been deployed almost as often as a striker as an attacking midfielder, and Rose has played him almost exclusively on the right wing at Leipzig in an attempt to accommodate the plethora of quality at his disposal.
Unlike Musiala, Simons’ pass accuracy is relatively low – the former has found a teammate with 91.1% of his passes compared to 77.6% - but this is down to the latter often being tasked with looking to thread between the lines and, as a wide midfielder, he is expected to produce plenty of crosses. Having won 55.6% of his duels, he is clearly not afraid of a tackle, and an average of 29 sprints per match compared to Musiala’s 22 this campaign shows he covers a lot of ground, and quickly.
What they’re saying
Unsurprisingly, the two have come in for plenty of praise from teammates and pundits alike. Harry Kane has played with plenty of special players throughout his career, but he was glowing in his appraisal of Musiala recently, saying, “Jamal has been fantastic. There's been a lot of talk about how good he is and how young he is. He's been great to watch in training and in tight areas how he moves and how he plays forwards. He's been fantastic to play with so far.”
Last year, Germany legend Lothar Matthäus claimed the Bayern star “reminds him of [Lionel] Messi”. Such comments would put pressure on anyone’s shoulder, but Musiala appears more than equipped to deal with the expectation, and has set high goals himself.
“In one or two years, I want to be at the highest level possible. I want to be one of the best players in the world, it’s my plan and ambition. That’s my idea, I hope to compete for the Ballon d’Or,” he stated in an interview with Bild earlier this week.
His Leipzig counterpart has not been without his supporters, either. Former Hamburg midfielder and now pundit in his homeland Rafael van der Vaart suggested Simons could “become the best player in the world,” while his new club’s sporting director Max Eberl has already claimed RB are looking to keep him at the Red Bull Arena beyond next summer. If he continues to perform at this level, plenty more plaudits will come his way.
Kane on fire, Leverkusen match Bundesliga record and much more on MD11
Harry Kane was at it again over the weekend, but it's Leverkusen who go into another international break in pole position...
Jamal Musiala purring as Bayern attack hits its stride
The Germany international is relishing taking on more responsibility and developing a relationship with Harry Kane.
Which star duels will decide Der Klassiker?
bundesliga.com outlines the key battles of fine footballing might that look set the sway the outcome of the first Klassiker of 2023/24.