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bundesliga

Jamal Musiala and Xavi: How do the Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig magicians compare?

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RB Leipzig's visit to Bayern Munich 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. bundesliga.com takes a look at how the duo compare ahead of the encounter...

Musiala and Xavi may both be just 20 years old and are certainly lighting up the Bundesliga, but the first notable difference is the trajectory of their careers.

The former is expected to make his 108th league appearance for Bayern on Saturday, two days before his 21st birthday – only Timo Werner (117) and Kai Havertz (114) had featured more often in this division by the time they had reached that age.

In contrast, Xavi is in his maiden Bundesliga campaign, which may be his solitary one should he return to Paris Saint-Germain at the end of his loan spell, and the visit to the Allianz Arena will be just his 22nd league match for Die Roten Bullen. He does not turn 21 until 21st April and still has some catching up to do. While the Netherlands international has played 90 professional matches across his spells with Leipzig, PSG and PSV, Musiala has already racked up 151 in Bavaria.

However, what Xavi lacks in experience, he makes up for in talent and - whisper it quietly - has perhaps enjoyed the more consistent campaign. Let's see how the two prodigies compare as footballers...

Watch: Leipzig and Bayern shared four goals earlier this season

Both are at home in attacking midfield. Nevertheless, they are not traditional number 10s and are instead flexible playmakers who can play across the front line and even in a more defensive role. Quite frankly, they are offensive all-rounders, who have the ability to display their quality wherever they are on the pitch.

For PSG, Xavi mainly a classic central midfielder before featuring further forward in his breakthrough campaign in the Netherlands. Yet, while he regularly played in the hole behind centre-forward and Borussia Möncehengladbach alumni Luuk de Jong, he was also occasionally deployed on the right wing and as a striker himself. Then, during the second half of the 2022/23 campaign, he enjoyed a lucrative spell in front of goal on the left flank. 

At Leipzig, he has had ample opportunity to further show his versatility. Marco Rose generally sets up his starting XI in a 4-2-2-2 formation, with David Raum taking up the number 10 responsibilities down the left flank. Therefore, Xavi has played as an inside left playmaker or, at times, on the right - stationed on the wing or dropping back as required

The injury to Dani Olmo required him to take up a more familiar 10 position. Even following the Spaniard’s return to fitness, though, that’s where he has stayed, underlining his status as the team’s main creative force.

Xavi dropping back from his playmaking position to the inside left on against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 22. - DFL

Meanwhile, things are a little more straightforward for Musiala at Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern, who play with a traditional 10. He has been a regular there, providing an link between the defensive lines. More recently, however, he has popped up on the left, albeit while frequently rotating positions with his teammates throughout games to confuse opponents.

The injury list at Bayern is the biggest factor in Musiala not being used centrally of late. Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry's absence has forced Tuchel’s hand, and the presence of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Müller means the record champions have more options centrally.

Musiala can play across the Bayern attack. - DFL

Our recent tactical analysis of Florian Wirtz and Musiala showed that their contribution manifested itself in different ways. While Wirtz racks up numerous assists, his Germany teammate would rather find the back of the net himself. That is more reminiscent of Xavi, with both players eager to fire off shots, albeit in different ways.

Whenever he has a chance to let fly, Xavi usually obliges. He has tried his luck on 54 occasions this term, racking up an xG (Expected Goals) tally of 4.2. From that we can calculate an average scoring chance of 7.8 percent per effort. As such, besides an untypical header from a corner against Augsburg during Matchday 4 (41 percent goal probability) he tends to make a lot from small chances.

His goal in a 3-1 win over Freiburg on Matchday 11 had only a four percent chance of going in, while his brilliant January Bundesliga Goal of the Month that saw him juggle, turn and strike against Bayer Leverkusen was rated at just a nine percent chance of scoring. With six Bundesliga strikes to his name this term, he has outperformed his xGoals tally by a fair distance.

Watch: All of Xavi's 2023/24 Bundesliga goals

It is clear that Xavi takes advantage of every sight of goal, regardless of how much the odds are stacked against him. Typically after receiving the ball, he will chase towards the edge of the box before shooting or trying to lay on a goal for a teammate. All seven of the Leipzig link-up man's assists have been provided from outside the area, and they have either featured a pass into the box or to a team-mate with a free route into the danger area. When he does create for others, he tends to do so from a deeper position, almost like a quarterback.

However, he is still one of the best dribblers in the Bundesliga. He loves beating opponents, and does so regularly, just not in the box. Instead of wriggling free in tight spaces, he uses his speed and agility, with his low centre of gravity making him almost impossible to stop in one-on-one foot races.

His 58 completed dribbles – with a completion rate of 67.2 percent - puts him fourth in the Bundesliga, one position behind Musiala. Subsequently, the only way for the rest of the division to thwart his progress is usually to foul him. He has been brought down illegally on no fewer than 53 occasions this season, 10 more than anyone else.

Watch: Xavi, Olmo and Openda - Leipzig artists

Musiala takes a distinctly different approach to the art of goalscoring. Bayern dominate possession in the majority of their games, meaning he is often on the ball higher up the pitch. Therefore, he is confronted with less room to manoeuvre in the final third. It is in such situations, though, that he is at his best – despite playing in just 17 of the 22 league games so far this term, he has amassed 69 completed dribbles.

Musiala certainly has the ability to net from distance - he showed that with the massive title-winning goal in Cologne on the final day of last season. He prefers to contribute by chasing into the area and firing from close range, however. Only one of his six goals this campaign have come from outside the box. Perhaps the archetypical Musiala goal was his second strike in the 3-0 win against Hoffenheim on Matchday 17, in which he dribbled into the danger area and played a one-two before tucking home with a 62 percent chance of scoring.  

He has an xG tally of 4.4 so far this season, meaning he has outperformed in front of the target. His 34 shots are 20 fewer than Xavi's, though, illustrating his thought pattern clearly - take the ball, seek a way through and then shoot.

Watch: All of Jamal Musiala's 2023/24 Bundesliga goals

The duo are a fascinating example of two players, who are regarded as very similar on the surface without having all that much in common in their games. Musiala is more of a striker operating in the No. 10 role, wanting to burst into the box and find the net from short range or help team-mates by stretching defences with his runs. Xavi is much more of a midfielder, who is happy to receive the ball deep and thread together a break, or take aim from distance. He has little interest in operating in the box, but has a big desire for testing goalkeepers as soon as possible. 

As always, the players aren't totally limited to what we have just described. Musiala can spearhead a break when needed - most notably perhaps in careering forward and teeing up Leroy Sané in the first meeting of Leipzig and Bayern this season. Xavi is not totally averse to moving into the goalmouth, as his header earlier in the season showed. Having said that, the tags do tend to apply more often than not, and whoever comes out on top on Saturday, expect another magic moment or two along the way! 

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