RB Leipzig v GLADBACH
Saturday 1st February, 1730 GMT
The Bundesliga title race is turning out to be one of the best in Europe this season.
Four points separate the top four clubs, RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich, Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund and as a result, all eyes will be on the late Saturday fixture when leaders Leipzig host third-placed Gladbach. Julian Nagelsmann’s side came away with a convincing 3-1 winners in the reverse fixture at Borussia-Park back in August and since then both sides have progressed under their first-year coaches, Nagelsmann and Marco Rose.
Throughout the first half of the season, both sides tended to be fairly tactically conservative in key matches. Although it is doubtful that either boss will spring a tactical surprise, with the title race remaining close the match is set to be an interesting tactical battle between two well-coached sides.
RB Leipzig enter the weekend following a surprise 2-0 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt but, really, the result should not be cause for massive concern. The team have already shown they are capable of bouncing back, particularly after Freiburg bested them in October. Nagelsmann will have them just as focused and prepared as his teams typically are, while their attack has been reinforced by new arrival Dani Olmo from Dinamo Zagreb.
In the reverse fixture that was successful for them, Leipzig were able to overwhelm Gladbach’s defence with quick transitions into the final third. Their high-tempo passing is the core playing style of the Red Bull project and it will be the area of emphasis for RB Leipzig as they look to exploit Gladbach’s defensive vulnerability in wide areas as soon as they win the ball back.
Gladbach 1-3 RB Leizpig, 30 August 2019
Out wide is not only Gladbach are most vulnerable, but it is where RB Leipzig are at their strongest with the pace of Timo Werner, Marcel Sabitzer and others. If Gladbach decide to remain in a four-man back-line, as they have in their last 10 matches, they could be exposed when attacking as both of their wing-backs, especially Stefan Lainer, prefer to get further up the pitch.
If RB Leipzig can efficiently exploit the spaces left in behind by Gladbach’s wing-backs, that will draw out and disorganise Gladbach’s center-backs. Leipzig will likely allow Gladbach time on the ball when out of possession, with the emphasis on certain pressing triggers that will release their deadly counter-attack.
Gladbach enjoyed a convincing 3-1 win over Mainz last time out after an inconsistent run of form that included a win over Bayern but losses to Wolfsburg and Schalke. Previously against Leipzig Gladbach struggled to play quality passes in the final third and left too much space between their back-line and their double pivot in midfield which RB Leipzig exploited for two of their three goals.
Rose is the coach more likely to change his tactical plan for the match and may opt to deploy a 3-5-2 formation, a shape Gladbach used in their DFB-Pokal match against Dortmund and in the Bundesliga against Bayer Leverkusen.
The three-man defence will allow for adequate defensive cover while allowing their wing-backs to push forward and provide crucial width. The back three will also play an important role in build-up, to break RB Leipzig’s first line of pressure.
This formation will place an emphasis on Rose’s front three of Lars Stindl in the attacking midfield role with Alassane Plea, who scored two against Mainz last week, and Marcus Thuram. The two strikers will sit narrow and look to be played into lateral positions by Stindl, especially Thuram, if he is able to get in a 1 v 1 situation.
Gladbach have shown against Bayern Munich that they are able to compete with good sides and if Marco Rose can get the better of RB Leipzig, it will be beyond doubt that they are serious title contenders.