It has been an up-and-down first half of the season for RB Leipzig, who have had to balance fighting on several fronts for the first time, but the Easterners look primed for an assault on the top four once the Rückrunde gets going in earnest.
Story so far ...
Perhaps due to balancing Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League commitments for the first time in club history, it was an up-and-down first half of the season for Leipzig by their high standards.
Watch: RB Leipzig continued to prove that last-season's runners-up berth was no fluke!
Domestically, the Easterners' high-pressing brand of football remains largely successful: Ralph Hasenhüttl's side sit fifth and have recorded some impressive wins in the Hinrunde, none more so than a 3-2 triumph at the Signal Iduna Park, a victory that ended Borussia Dortmund's 41-game unbeaten home record.
That said, there have been some lows, too. Leipzig began the season badly, losing 2-0 in Gelsenkirchen to a resurgent Schalke, while defeats to Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup and then – three days later – in the Bundesliga left a sour taste. A 4-0 hammering by Hoffenheim underlined the club's unfamiliar struggles and, for the first time since arriving in the top flight, RB are towards the back of the pack chasing the Bavarian serial champions.
In Europe, Hasenhüttl's troops left a good impression, but slipped out of the UEFA Champions League, finishing third in a group containing Besiktas, Porto and last-season's semi-finalists Monaco. A tough tie awaits in the UEFA Europa League, with a double-header against Serie A leaders Napoli in the diary for February.
Watch: Leipzig's win against Dortmund was a modern Bundesliga classic!
Leipzig's top scorer domestically and in Europe, Timo Werner netted eight goals in 15 Bundesliga games, and three times in six UEFA Champions League outings. Despite a penalty miss in the DFB Cup shoot-out against Bayern, the 21-year-old's form this year has made him a shoo-in to start up front for Germany against Mexico in Moscow in the world champions' first game of the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Jean-Kevin Augustin has taken to life in Leipzig like a duck to water, the young Frenchman scoring three goals in 11 Bundesliga games and adding another string to RB's attacking bow.
Elsewhere, Marcel Sabitzer's Hinrunde performances – as stand-in captain in some cases - drew praise from all corners. The Austrian, who ended David Alaba's six-year stranglehold on his nation's Player of the Year award, suffered a shoulder injury against Monaco in November; it is noticeable that his side won only one of six competitive games without him.
Watch: Augustin is one of Leipzig's speed demons!
- Leipzig have picked up 11 points fewer than at this stage of last season (28 points to 2016/17's 39).
- Hasenhüttl's troops ended the first half of the season without a win in four Bundesliga games.
- Leipzig came from behind to win three games in the first half of the season, a league high.
- RB have won every Bundesliga game in which Naby Keita has scored.
With no training camp in warmer climes scheduled this season, the hard work kresumes on 2 January for Leipzig, who have the immediate chance to climb back into the top four when they welcome Schalke on Matchday 18, a mouthwatering opening to the second half of the campaign. While their interest in the DFB Cup may be over for this season, there is also the small matter of a double-header with Napoli, with the second leg at the Red Bull Arena, to look forward to.
💬 Ralph #Hasenhüttl: "We've earned a break and we need it. We'll use the next few weeks to rest and reflect, so that we can begin the second half of the season strongly." #RBLBSC pic.twitter.com/Vyg9l2g2pw— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) 17 December 2017