The last German football matches played were on November 13, and the last time these two teams saw the pitch in league play was the day before. This Friday, both sides will be incredibly well-rested, with the World Cup more than a month in the past, and ready to kick off the long-awaited restart with some fast-paced Bundesliga football. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this matchup between two of Germany’s top sides.
RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich Odds
At home, Leipzig are still pretty decent underdogs, with odds of +280. The tie is also something of a long shot, with that line being set at +300, while Bayern are a cool -130 to win outright. Here’s a Bundesliga moment for you- in what is usually a rare instance, we’re going to take a look at a goalscoring line of 3.5 instead of the standard 2.5; for that higher total number, the over is almost even money at +105, while the under is set at -130.
RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich Prediction & Pick
And we’re back! After over two months off, it’s finally time for the Bundesliga, which does have fewer matches to play than most comparable leagues, to get going once again. The first match is going to be a real treat, as it’s a clash between perhaps the two best teams in Germany this season, as they have the best and second best (albeit with a wide gap between them) goal differentials in the Bundesliga.
Bayern are used to generally having the league all but wrapped up by the halfway mark of the season, but the strong play of both Leipzig and upstarts Freiburg have made that less of a certainty; if the Red Bulls are able to take all three points, they’d find themselves just 3 points behind Bayern. What’s more, Bayern have been hit pretty hard by injuries; they’re without Manuel Neuer and Lucas Hernandez for the foreseeable future, while Sadio Mané should be better by now, but his health is something of a moving target. The Bavarians of course aren’t in any sort of danger, but their usually-comfortable lead could be a bit more tenuous than they’d like this year, and a loss or draw against Leipzig would not do much to comfort the nerves.
Leipzig are not immune from the injury bug; they will be without star forward Christopher Nkunku. That being said, while Bayern have emerged from the World Cup battered and bruised, most Leipzig players got a decent rest, with the exception of Josko Gvardiol who earned a confidence boost, if anything. They also might be regaining the services of prodigal son Timo Werner, who was initially a doubt to make it back in time for the Bundesliga restart, but it’s looking more and more like he could contribute against Bayern, even if it’s in a bench capacity.
As much as I really do like and respect Leipzig this season- keep an eye out for some upcoming Champions League content on that topic- on the surface, this one isn’t particularly tough to call. Based on the relative strengths of the two teams, Bayern should go out and do their thing, take the three points and head home. However, this isn’t quite a normal match. While Neuer’s replacement, Yann Sommer, is an incredibly capable goalkeeper himself, the deal just got done on Wednesday, and he won’t even put pen to paper on his Bayern deal until Thursday. Despite the short timeframe, the buzz is that he is slated to start against Leipzig! The Swiss legend is going to be outstanding for Bayern in the very near future, but I wouldn’t be stunned if the whirlwind turn of events gets to him a bit and we see uncharacteristic blunders.
Of course, there’s also the simple fact that it’s the first match after a long layoff; there may be some aspect of shaking off the rust- Leipzig were in excellent form both domestically and beyond before the break but that was quite some time ago so it’s hard to know how much value to place in that. This isn’t as straightforward of a pick as it might appear, but I do think the best value lies with Bayern -130, as well as on the line of u3.5 for -130. While Sommer adjustment concerns are not illegitimate, he’s a true pro, and frankly may not even be tested that often; the under on such a high goalscoring number is a great value in a game where the teams might take some time to get comfortable after the big break, a trend that usually means low scoring.
Bayern Attack vs. Leipzig Defense
We’ve already talked about Neuer’s unfortunate situation, but Leipzig have their own goalkeeping crisis of sorts on their hands; team captain Péter Gulási is out for the season. His position has been filled by summer arrival Janis Blaswich, who has done a very solid job in relief. In his 8 starts (compared to Gulási’s 6 before the injury), Blaswich is outpacing his predecessor in terms of goals against, save percentage, and team record to boot. It’s a bit of a jump to say that Leipzig wouldn’t prefer to have their #1 back in the net, but Blaswich has definitely done more than enough to say that there hasn’t been a significant drop off, and the potential crisis has been averted.
I’ve also alluded to Josko Gvardiol, the Croatian youngster who was arguably the best defender of the tournament, ridiculously snubbed for the young player award, and was only behind perhaps the legendary Luka Modric for the honor of best player on the overachieving draw machines, third-place Croatia. The versatile defensive maestro is now wanted by the biggest clubs in the World, but right now, he plays for Leipzig and will be a huge issue for Bayern’s attackers, especially if they don’t have Mané at full strength to stretch the field. Gvardiol is joined in central defense by Willi Orban, who took the armband from his Hungarian countryman Gulási and is, for now, serving as the team’s captain. The fullback pairing features one of a pair of Germans on the left, either veteran Marcel Halstenberg or up-and-comer David Raum, while the right back could be either one of French youngster Mohamed Simakan, or Benjamin Henrichs. Whoever’s out there will have to step up in a big way, as Leipzig have been a pretty average side in the Bundesliga when it comes to opponent goal prevention, and Bayern are of course by far the toughest domestic task for any German side.
It’s really hard to overstate how dominant Bayern’s attack has, once again, been in the domestic arena. Through 15 matches, they’ve whipped in 49 goals- the second best tally in the league is Frankfurt’s 32. With incredibly prolific but recently departed striker Robert Lewandowski not in the lineup for the first time in a long time, they’ve changed approaches and played more egalitarian, but similarly lethal, attacking football. In fact, their goals per match have increased from about 2.85 to 3.25. The team’s leading scorer is superstar teenager Jamal Musiala with 9 goals, as well as a team-topping 6 assists, but Serge Gnabry is right behind with 8 in the back of the net. Sadio Mané and Eric Maxim Choupo-Mouting have also chipped in 6 apiece, so perhaps the less-predictable nature of Bayern’s attack has actually helped the team- stopping Lewandowski provided opponents with a clear objective, while now it’s impossible to know where the next shot is going to come from. With attacking depth galore- I haven’t even touched on the likes of the speedsters Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman, or legendary veteran Thomas Müller- and the Mané’s level of health a bit of an enigma, it’s hard to know exactly how Bayern will line up, but whoever makes the starting XI, there will be three extremely talented, tough-to-stop attackers going after the Leipzig defense.
The Midfield Battle
Battle is no misnomer for the matchup between these two midfields; we’re talking about the two best possession sides in the Bundesliga this season. Leipzig have had 58% of the ball in their matches this year, while the figure for Bayern stands at a ridiculous 66.1%. As is the case with the attack, Bayern have tons of options, and Musiala is one of them; the kid can really play all over the field. In terms of more “true” midfielders, the steady veteran Leon Goretzka comes to mind, and of course the versatile Joshua Kimmich is one of the very best defensive midfielders in the world, if he’s not playing straight up defense at right back, which is not uncommon. Like Musiala, Sané has often played midfield this year, of course in a relatively attacking role. Lastly, Austria’s Marcel Sabitzer has had a relatively limited role in his first season with the club, but is a high-level option nonetheless.
In the 4-4-2 formation we can expect from Leipzig, there’s really only two true midfielders, with the two outside players in the middle 4 serving as something closer to a winger at times. Still, these players are an essential part of the progression through possession, build up, and end product, so their roles can be justifiably included in this portion of the analysis. On the left, it’ll be one of the Swedish veteran Emil Forsberg, or Spanish youngster Dani Olmo, who can also slide into a more central-attacking role if need be. On the other side is Hungary’s rising star Dominik Szoboszlai, a 22 year old who leads the team with 7 league assists thus far. This isn’t exactly a “speed kills” group of outside midfielders, but they’re all steady, talented players who will provide a serious challenge for Bayern’s wingers and defenders alike. In the more central midfield roles, we can expect Xaver Schlager and Kevin Kampl to be the pairing; the former has had a strong season so far, while the same cannot be said for his counterpart, so he will be a potential weak link to keep an eye on in the chain of Leipzig’s midfield four. If they want to stay in this match, winning or at least staying even in the struggle for possession is one of Leipzig’s most plausible ways to do so; I won’t remotely say that they have a midfield as talented as Bayern’s, but this group is good enough to at least be competitive in this area of the game.