Top of the table once more, eight wins in a row and a sold-out stadium for the fifth consecutive game – The mood at RB Leipzig could not be better right now.
Heidel: 'RBL are a very good team'
“We are top of the league!” was the chant from the fans at a sold-out Red Bull Arena at the final whistle on Saturday evening. Anyone who had predicted that in-form FC Schalke 04 would put a stop to high-flying Leipzig’s run went home disappointed. Although coach Ralph Hasenhüttl had warned before the game that Schalke were “the most complete opposition,” his team overcame their challenge.
Even though there was an element of luck behind both Leipzig goals, the visitors still admitted after the game that the home side “weren’t undeserved winners,” according to Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes. For sporting director Christian Heidel, Leipzig were “a very, very good team who maybe deserved to win in the end.”
Watch: Leipzig's top scorer Timo Werner on the club's eight-match winning run.
Hertha and Bayern before winter break
“I’m proud of the team,” said Willi Orban, who once again put in an impressive performance. RBL’s stand-in captain is only 24 years old but is still one of the oldest players on the pitch for Leipzig and is a true leader in the Lower Saxony side’s defence. “It’s crazy how many points we have right now,” said the central defender. The promoted side currently have 33 points on the board and sit top of the table. Out of the 11 teams to previously have 33 points after Matchday 13, nine have gone on to lift the Bundesliga title at the end of the season. Leipzig have now won their last eight games in a row and are still unbeaten in the Bundesliga.
“It’s a great feeling to know that the fans are so happy and are shouting ‘We are top of the league!’ after the game,” said Orban. “It’s the best feeling when you can celebrate with your fans in your own stadium after the game. It’s great that the fans are so thrilled with our place in the table and we’re also over the moon.”
However, the defender still has loftier ambitions, “We’re at the top but we can’t celebrate just yet.” There are three more games until the winter break, including top-of-the-table clashes against Hertha BSC and FC Bayern München. “We know that we have to remain focused on our work and maybe even step it up a notch.”
Limited options at the back
There was some bad news from Saturday when right-back Benno Schmitz had to go off in the 23rd minute. He was replaced by club captain Dominik Kaiser, a defensive midfielder by trade. When asked when he last played in that position, the 28-year-old replied, “I don’t know, maybe at U16 level.”
Ralph Hasenhüttl summarised the defensive dilemma by saying, “We don’t have any more. With Bernardo, Marvin Compper, Ken Gipson, Lukas Klostermann and Kyriakos Papadopoulos all out, we have five players unavailable who could play at the back. There is, however, hope from the Leipzig camp that Schmitz can shake off his knock, even though Hasenhüttl claimed that Kaiser did “a very good job.”