No holds barred football is on the menu at the Red Bull Arena on Sunday when RB Leipzig host leaders Bayer Leverkusen in a game that could play a role in the Bundesliga’s title destiny. Marco Rose’s hosts begun the campaign rated higher than Xabi Alonso’s visitors only for Leverkusen to upend them 3-2 in the season opener. The thrice runners up have since grown in stature and travel to Leipzig with a healthy four point cushion atop the standings.
But despite grabbing all three points in their last assignment at Augsburg courtesy of a 96th minute Exequiel Palacios strike they missed the power of African quartet Odilon Kossounou (Ivory Coast), Amine Adli (Morocco) Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso) and Victor Boniface (Nigeria), all of whom are taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Directing intelligence Florian Wirtz should start behind striker Patrick Schick after beating off an injury that prevented him from starting in Augsburg. Leipzig, who will be trying to bounce back from last week’s surprise 0-1 loss at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt can once again count on the mercurial skills of 11-goal Belgian forward Lois Openda and creative genius Xavi Simons.
Eleven time defending champions begin a week of intensive activity when they host four time winners Werder Bremen on Sunday before playing their game in hand at home to Union Berlin on Wednesday. Allianz Arena coach Thomas Tuchel has the most talented squad at his disposal and the division’s 22-goal top scorer Harry Kane leading the line. It would therefore be a surprise if a squad enamored by the arrival of Eric Dier should fail to pick up maximum points.
Bundesliga action commences on Friday night with Mainz battling Union Berlin in a relegation six pointer before Borussia Dortmund’s game at Cologne headlines Saturday’s games. New Cologne coach Timo Schultz is keen to expunge the malaise that was afflicting the Billy Goats in the final months of Steffen Baumgart’s tenure while new Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is rating to go after registering an assist at Darmstadt, his first game since joining on loan from Manchester United.
Mainz v Union Berlin
Darmstadt v Eintracht Frankfurt,
Freiburg v Hoffenheim,
Cologne v Borussia Dortmund,
Heidenheim v Wolfsburg,
Bochum v Stuttgart,
RB Leipzig v Bayer Leverkusen
Bayern Munich v Werder Bremen,
Gladbach v Augsburg
Bayern Munich v Union Berlin