Ralph Hasenhüttl (l.) and Julian Nagelsmann (r.) will meet again this weekend as Leipzig host Hoffenheim. - © © gettyimages / Simon Hofmann
Ralph Hasenhüttl (l.) and Julian Nagelsmann (r.) will meet again this weekend as Leipzig host Hoffenheim. - © © gettyimages / Simon Hofmann

Surprise packages Leipzig and Hoffenheim prepare for showdown

The standout fixture of Matchday 18 sees second-placed RB Leipzig – unbeaten at home – entertain third-placed TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – unbeaten full stop. Hold on to your hats.

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RB Leipzig's great Bundesliga adventure began on 28 August 2016, as the newcomers travelled to Hoffenheim's WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar Arena for their maiden top-flight outing. It didn't disappoint.

On the one hand, a Leipzig side taking a leap into the unknown, having worked their way up from the German fifth division to the Bundesliga over the course of just seven years. On the other, a Hoffenheim team who had just avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, after putting their faith in a 28-year-old coach, Julian Nagelsmann.

Watch: Hoffenheim and Leipzig's thrilling Matchday 1 encounter:

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In a frantic second half, the two sides traded blows. Lukas Rupp put Hoffenheim ahead, only for Dominik Kaiser to level the scores almost immediately and earn himself a place in history, as Leipzig's first ever Bundesliga goalscorer. Mark Uth thought he had won it for Die Kraichgauer, but Marcel Sabitzer popped up with a dramatic last-minute equaliser for Leipzig, to ensure that both sides had something to show for their first outing of the season.

Fast forward five months, to the start of the Rückrunde – and both sides' campaigns have defied all expectations since that opening day. As Leipzig prepare to host the side who welcomed them into the Bundesliga, they are sitting second in the table, just three points behind record champions FC Bayern München – and eight points ahead of Hoffenheim in third.

- © imago

Leipzig also kicked off 2017 in style. Having put the Bayern defeat firmly behind them, the promoted side swept aside 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt, keeping pace with the leaders and extending their superb run at the Red Bull Arena. They have now won seven of eight home outings this season, including the last six, and only dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach.

So, what will happen when the unstoppable force of RB Leipzig meets the immovable object that is TSG 1899 Hoffenheim? All will be revealed on Saturday – and you'd be mad to miss it.

Key duels: Where Leipzig versus Hoffenheim will be won and lost

Andy Smith