Yussuf Poulsen (r.) celebrates with Timo Werner in Leipzig's 4-0 win against Freiburg on Matchday 29. - © © imago / Jan Huebner
Yussuf Poulsen (r.) celebrates with Timo Werner in Leipzig's 4-0 win against Freiburg on Matchday 29. - © © imago / Jan Huebner
Bundesliga

Yussuf Poulsen's return the secret as Leipzig seal Champions League qualification

RB Leipzig's 4-0 win against fellow promoted outfit Freiburg on Matchday 29 ensured the Eastern upstarts at the very least a place in the qualification rounds of next season's UEFA Champions League.

It is quite an achievement, however you spin it, and particularly so given that it has been secured with the inimitable, high pressing that has taken even Germany's high-pressing top flight by storm.

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While the current seven-point gap over third-placed Hoffenheim makes Leipzig's achievement appear as if it has long been a formality, that is not quite the case. Ralph Hasenhüttl's side endured a sticky patch in February and March, only winning twice in six games between Matchdays 20 and 25 to give their pursuers hope.

Any hope offered to the chasing pack of Hoffenheim, Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin, however, has been vanquished in recent weeks. Four wins in the last four games have propelled Hasenhüttl's troops to a place rubbing shoulders with the continent's biggest names next season – only eight years after coming into existence in 2009.

- © imago / MIS

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There has been one factor that coincided with Leipzig's poor run of form and recent return to their eye-catching best: the availability of striker Yussuf Poulsen. The Dane's return from a thigh injury during the 4-0 home win against Darmstadt on Matchday 26, the game after a potentially damaging 3-0 defeat at Werder Bremen, has gone hand in hand with the restoration of the Easterners' momentum.

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Indeed, Poulsen's comeback has been key to Leipzig finding a way back to the high-pressing, suffocating style that has characterised their season so far. The Dane's aggressive pressing creates the space in which his colleagues are so deadly: it is little surprise Werner has scored twice and laid on a further goal since Poulsen's comeback.

Hasenhüttl has also underlined Poulsen's importance to his intended style: "He helps our game a lot," said the Austrian. "With him, we have a player who helps us to play really high up the field."

- © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Simon Hofmann