Oliver Burke (l.) and Naby Keita (r.) have hit the ground running since joining RB Leipzig in the summer. - © © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein
Oliver Burke (l.) and Naby Keita (r.) have hit the ground running since joining RB Leipzig in the summer. - © © gettyimages / Alexander Hassenstein

Newly-promoted Leipzig hot on Bayern's heels

Ten games unbeaten for starters, seven wins included: RB Leipzig have burst on the Bundesliga scene with a vengeance and every passing matchday serves only to intensify the hype surrounding the top-flight newbies, however keen the management might be to dampen unrealistic expectations.

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Indeed, the question not so gradually arising now is – just how far can Leipzig actually take it this season? The squad evidently have the confidence to match their talent, with new signing Oliver Burke happy to admit that, “I want to win the Bundesliga and I want to win it with Leipzig. We have the players, the quality, we have a great team, so there's no reason we can't,” the powerful and pacy 19-year-old attacking talent reckons. Reflecting on their early-season success skipper Dominik Kaiser, who has accompanied Leipzig on their rise from the Regional League to the Bundesliga, noted, “The number of points we've collected over the past few weeks is pretty remarkable – but we've earned them.”  

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Remarkable, indeed. Leipzig head into the weekend programme level on 24 points with FC Bayern München, trailing the defending champions and league leaders on goal difference alone. Should they avoid defeat in Friday evening's Matchday 11 opener at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Ralph Hasenhüttl's young guns will set a new all-time Bundesliga record for an unbeaten start to the season by a freshly promoted side. They will also be out on their own at the top of the table for one night at least, with Bayern playing at Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

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Striker Yussuf Poulsen, for one, was adamant in the wake of Matchday 10's 3-1 home win against 1. FSV Mainz 05 that over the course of the season “We're not going to be challenging Bayern.” Hasenhüttl himself has stressed that, “I don't really like comparing us with anyone. The team are doing a tremendous job at the moment but there's still a long road ahead of us.”

At Bayern, they have nonetheless already registered the potential threat posed by the new boys on the Bundesliga block. “As long as we keep dropping points, Leipzig are in with a shout. They're looking good from back to front – very attack-minded, defensively sound as a unit and with the necessary individual class,” summarised Mats Hummels. In short, a similar mix to the one at his previous club Dortmund, “that helped us to two league titles.”  

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Perhaps most impressive of all has been Leipzig's rate of tactical development, with the counter-attacking style of their opening few games now already supplemented by longer phases of possession football. Throw in an aggressive, high-tempo pressing game as standard and the debutants have been simply too hot to handle for the bulk have their more battle-hardened top-flight opponents so far.

The classic 40-point survival target for newly-promoted clubs remains their nominal priority and captain Kaiser is confident that, whatever the level of ongoing puffery outwith the club itself, “We'll put it all to one side and keep a clear head.” Hasenhüttl and his equally meticulous sporting director Ralf Rangnick will see to that – even if, after Matchday 11, they find themselves having to explain what it feels like to be looking down from above on Bayern.

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