Unbeaten Leipzig and Hoffenheim matching Real Madrid all the way

RB Leipzig and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim have made it a third of the way through the Bundesliga season without tasting defeat, making them two of only three teams in Europe's top leagues to remain unbeaten.

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- © gettyimages / Matthias Hangst

Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Real Madrid CF. An unlikely trio, perhaps, but as it stands they are the only teams from the continent's major leagues who have managed to reach the month of December without losing a league game. Matching the reigning European champions is no mean feat, and so bundesliga.com takes a closer look at how Ralph Hasenhüttl and Julian Nagelsmann's sides have pulled it off...

Leipzig leading by example

The fact that they are still unbeaten only tells part of the story of Leipzig's remarkable debut campaign, which has seen them beat the likes of Borussia Dortmund, VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen to sit three points clear of champions FC Bayern München at the top of the table. 

Yet the newcomers were just minutes away from defeat in their very first Bundesliga outing, against - funnily enough - Hoffenheim. Trailing 2-1 at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar Arena, Leipzig snatched a late draw thanks to Marcel Sabitzer's 90th-minute strike. They have not looked back since.

Watch: Sabitzer saves a draw for Leipzig at the death against Hoffenheim:

In their 11 Bundesliga outings since that draw, Leipzig have opened the scoring 10 times. The goals have frequently come early, too – in the sixth minute against Borussia Mönchengladbach, the fifth against 1. FC Köln, the third against 1. FSV Mainz 05, and the second in their last outing against SC Freiburg.

Grabbing the initiative has enabled Leipzig to sit a little deeper and exploit their opponents' defensive frailties on the counter-attack, as Hamburger SV discovered to their detriment during a second-half blitz on Matchday 3.

Even in the two matches where they fell behind – against Hoffenheim and more recently Leverkusen – RB found the mental resources to drag themselves level, and even to claim a record-breaking victory on their visit to the BayArena.

Watch: Leipzig become the first promoted side to go 11 games unbeaten with a come-from-behind win over Leverkusen:

- © imago / imago/Eibner

With a talented young squad currently oozing confidence, Leipzig could still be unbeaten at Christmas – but coach Hasenhüttl will be extremely wary of complacency, especially with a tricky run of fixtures to come between now and the end of the year. 

In their next four outings, his side will face in-form FC Schalke 04, former club FC Ingolstadt 04, high-flying Hertha Berlin and champions Bayern. If they can get through those encounters with their unbeaten run still intact, there will be an increasing amount of talk about the unlikeliest of title wins.

- © imago

Hoffenheim holding firm

Hoffenheim have not quite enjoyed the same level of consistency as Leipzig this season, but find themselves only eight points behind the leaders in sixth place. Even if they have clocked up more draws (seven) than wins (five) this term, Julian Nagelsmann's side have shown great tenacity in avoiding defeat.

After all, TSG were very much caught up in the relegation battle last season. They were down in 17th place when Nagelsmann, then 28, took over – but a run of seven wins in 14 games saw them climb to 15th, and avoid the relegation play-off by a single point.

The club chose to keep faith with Nagelsmann and it has paid off, with Hoffenheim looking more likely to secure a historic qualification for Europe this season than slip back into the relegation dogfight.

Perhaps the game that best illustrated Hoffenheim's newfound grit and determination was the spectacular 4-4 draw against Mainz on Matchday 2. Trailing 3-0 after just 27 minutes, Nagelsmann's side looked dead and buried when Levin Öztunali made it 4-1 to the 05ers before half-time. But a remarkable comeback was on the cards.

Given a helping hand by Mainz defender Gaëtan Bussmann, who got himself sent off early in the second half, Hoffenheim pulled it back to 4-3 thanks a quick-fire double from Mark Uth. Adam Szalai levelled up the scores on 84 minutes, and TSG were frantically pushing for a winner when the referee blew the final whistle.

Watch: Hoffenheim come from 4-1 down to rescue an unlikely point at Mainz:

It was not the only time this season that Nagelsmann's side have come from behind to get points on the board. They did so in the 2-1 victory over Schalke, which sparked a run of five straight wins, and in their recent draws with Hamburg and Gladbach. They also managed to hold record Bundesliga champions Bayern at the Allianz Arena

Like Leipzig, Hoffenheim have some tough fixtures ahead. Their unbeaten run will be seriously put to the test in the coming weeks, with successive games against Köln, Eintracht Frankfurt and Dortmund. And like Leipzig, their season could be defined by how well they rise to the challenge.

Andy Smith