Naby Keita and Timo Werner (r.) have been two of Leipzig's key players in a remarkable debut top-flight season. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Simon Hofmann
Naby Keita and Timo Werner (r.) have been two of Leipzig's key players in a remarkable debut top-flight season. - © © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Simon Hofmann

RB Leipzig: From Bundesliga 2 runners-up to Champions League in 29 games


RB Leipzig's victory over Freiburg on Saturday, coupled with Hertha Berlin's defeat to Mainz, confirmed the eastern club's place in next season's UEFA Champions League qualifying round at the very least.

How many Leipzig stars do you have in your Official Fantasy Bundesliga team? Click here to add more now!

It represents a quite astonishing achievement for Ralph Hasenhüttl's team, considering this is their maiden season in the Bundesliga following promotion from the second tier at the end of the 2015/16 campaign.

Currently second in the table and seven points ahead of third-placed Hoffenheim, a place in European competition is a fitting reward for their barnstorming performances. But how exactly have they done it? takes a closer look…

Check out the Bundesliga's official Facebook page

Leipzig have a solid backbone throughout the side. Centre-back and captain Willi Orban is one of main reasons they have the third-best defence in the league, winning over 60 per cent of all his tackles. In midfield, Naby Keita has arguably been the revelation of the Bundesliga this term thanks to his energetic displays, skill on the ball, superb range of passing and eye for goal.

Add to that the attacking talents of Emil Forsberg, who has provided more assists (15) than anyone else in Europe's top five divisions in 2016/17, and Timo Werner, who has become a full Germany international thanks to his scoring record (16 to date), and it becomes clear there is quality in every department on the pitch.

Watch: Emil Forsberg's top five assists

That quartet are ably assisted by a supporting cast determined to prove themselves at the highest level. For example, goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi is as reliable as they come between the posts and has kept a respectable eight clean sheets in 27 outings thus far.

Marcel Sabitzer, Stefan Ilsanker and Diego Demme may not have grabbed as many headlines as Werner and Co, but they have all performed consistently well throughout the season. Simply put, there is no weak link in the Leipzig side.

The fact that they have had no European fixtures to contend with and were knocked out of the DFB Cup in the first round has no doubt helped them, but that should not detract from the work head coach Hasenhüttl has put in. His charges have beaten Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim, among others, this season.

Watch: Leipzig's 1-0 victory over Leverkusen on Matchday 29

Download the official Bundesliga app!

Leipzig have won acclaim for their lightning-fast attacks, but they are no one-trick pony. Aware that psychologically it is easier to play once you are ahead, rather than coming from behind, Leipzig tend to start strongly and have scored the opening goal 19 times this season, even hitting the net ten times in the first 15 minutes.

Hasenhüttl's ability to foster a team spirit that means everyone is willing to track back and defend should not be overlooked either. The 49-year-old Austrian, a former Bayern Munich reserve player, is a shrewd operator and guided Ingolstadt to an impressive 11th-placed finish last term before moving to Leipzig.

Add into the mix sporting director Ralf Rangnick, who pulls the strings behind the scenes and who imposed a salary cap on players' wages, and you have a smartly run club employing ambitious and talented staff eager to rub shoulders with the continent's finest. And by the looks of things, they will do so sooner than expected.

Head here for more Leipzig news!

Related news