With Bayern Munich unexpectedly dropping points on Saturday, RB Leipzig have the opportunity to narrow the gap on the summit to six points heading into the final four fixtures of the season.
Already, the league's newcomers have had a remarkable maiden season in Germany's top flight, securing UEFA Champions League football for the first time in their history. bundesliga.com spoke with one of the architects of their superlative season, Emil Forsberg, who revealed the secret of their success and even said there was still room for improvement.
bundesliga.com: When did you first get the feeling that this was not only going to be a good season but a very special season for RB Leipzig?
Emil Forsberg: That's difficult to say. Actually, after the second matchday and the 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund we already felt that we're really good. But it was of course not foreseen at the time that we would be as consistent on the pitch as we have been throughout the whole season. We obviously want to confirm that performance in the last few games. And I think that after Matchday 34, we'll all feel that we have played a really good season. Right now though, we're thinking exclusively about Schalke. That's all we're focusing on at the moment.
Watch: Emil Forsberg's top five assists
bundesliga.com: Nobody believed that Leipzig would be a typical promoted team that perhaps from the first to the last game would have to battle for survival. But that RB have been consistently so strong has surprised even the experts. What is the secret of the success?
Forsberg: Our mentality. We're always ready to give everything, whether it's on the training pitch or during a game at the weekend. In these 90 minutes we bring everything that we can to the pitch. We might also have had a little luck at certain times. But in Sweden, people say that you can also earn your own luck. And that's the case with us. We're a super team, we work very hard every day and we know that in the Bundesliga there are no easy games.
bundesliga.com: What is especially impressive is how quickly players who were in the second tier have learned. It seems like you have immediately drawn the right conclusions from defeats like against Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen.
Forsberg: You can learn from every game, especially as a promoted team. We look very closely after every game at what we have to do better for the next one. And we want to have fun on the pitch, whether it's in training or during a game. The atmosphere;s always positive so two or three defeats in a row were absolutely no problem. In addition I'm not personally the type of guy who gets nervous before a match. I go out on the pitch, play my game and always want to win. And that's how the whole team works.
"I've had a good season, like the whole team. But you always have to keep in mind that it could still be even better." - Emil Forsberg
bundesliga.com: A team that in the meantime has learned about patience?
Forsberg: That's right. We've become more patient and above all more flexible. We can play 5-3-2 but also 4-3-3 or 4-2-2-2. We're very good these days at mastering these different systems.
bundesliga.com: Let's talk about you personally. With Malmo you were already able to gain some Champions League experience. What do you tell your younger team-mates about the Champions League adventure?
Forsberg: In all honesty? We don't speak about that at all. If we've ever reached the point where we've actually qualified [for the group stages] then it might be different. Because of course we want to get into the Champions League. But first we now still have five games left that we want to be successful in. Now we go to Schalke and then Ingolstadt, who have shown good form lately, visit us. And then we have to go to Hertha. They're three really tough games. So it would be completely wrong to take it easier now in the knowledge that we're at least guaranteed to finish fourth. No. We absolutely want to hold on to second place.
Watch: Werner, Forsberg and Keita: Leipzig's magic triangle
bundesliga.com: You say yourself that you are your own biggest critic. At the moment, however, you probably don’t have much self-criticising to do...
Forsberg: On the contrary! (laughs) For me, all of that just isn't near good enough. If I had 32 assists, then I might be satisfied [ed.: at the moment he has 17 assists as well as eight goals]. I've had a good season, like the whole team. But you always have to keep in mind that it could still be even better.
bundesliga.com: After having already had a good promotion campaign, you are now by far the most highly-rated Leipzig player and in addition the fourth-highest scorer in the Bundesliga [in terms of goals and assists combined]. So ‘even better’ is becoming gradually more difficult.
Forsberg: No. There's still something [more to come] – I'm convinced of it. Clearly it's been a good season. But I'm a guy who’s never fully satisfied with himself. That was no different in the last season in the second division as it is now. I have without question been developing further since last season but this development is certainly not yet finished.
bundesliga.com: You recently extended your contract, which ran until 2021 anyway, until 2022. Given this long duration, you must not only enjoy being at RB and in the Bundesliga but also the city of Leipzig...
Forsberg: That's right. My wife, my dog and I feel very good in Leipzig. We've not yet had a single problem here and have everything we need to be happy. Leipzig's really very nice and I love this city.
bundesliga.com: Your wife also plays for RB, who are currently in the fourth division. What prospects does this team have?
Forsberg: Both Shanga and her team have great potential. The girls have a lot of fun playing the game and I'm certain that the development of this team's not finished yet.
bundesliga.com: Do you criticise each other’s performances?
Forsberg: You should come to my house when I have a bad game. (laughs) No but seriously, when we've played badly we also speak about it. Shanga says for example: "What the hell were you thinking with the choices you made on the pitch today? The passes were rubbish, the crosses were rubbish and the finishing was too!" I would then answer: "I know but the next game is just around the corner." But that's really not true. And Shanga says: "The next game's in a week. Today's game, however, was really rubbish. You first of all have to analyse what you did wrong before you think of the next game."
Interview by Andreas Kötter